By Steve Pratt
NORCROSS, Ga. – Every one remembers the last couple points of Ryan Harrison’s last Grand Slam appearance, his grueling five-set loss to Sergey Stakhovsky in the second round of the U.S. Open.
On Sunday, Harrison said thinking back to that match gave him some needed inspiration as he beat fellow 18-year-old Jack Sock in four sets, 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4, to earn his way into 2011’s first major event by winning the USTA Australian Open Wild-Card Playoff at the Racquet Club of the South.
"Absolutely," said Harrison after being asked if the loss in New York made him want to win Sunday’s match even more. "I know people still remember that match. I want to start creating some better Grand Slam memories and there couldn’t be an easier way to do that than to get into the main draw of the Australian Open."
Harrison, currently ranked No. 173 in the world and living in Cortez, Fla., had never played Sock before Sunday but the two matched up evenly Sunday with Harrison just a little bit better on the bigger points.
"That was an all-out battle out there," said Harrison. "Those were four tight sets. I thought there were times when we could have played better and been a little more aggressive but that being said we were also playing for a spot in the Australian Open so there was a lot pressure on both of us."
Harrison won last year’s USTA Australian Open Wild-Card Playoff beating Jesse Levine in the final. He then lost in the first round to Janko Tipsarevic in straight sets in the main draw at Melbourne Park.
Like Harrison, Sock, from Lincoln, Neb., also played in last year’s U.S. Open main draw and won the U.S. Open Junior title.
USTA Director of Player Development Patrick McEnroe said on Sunday that he’s continually impressed with Harrison’s competitiveness. "I think Ryan proved in this tournament that he’s a great young talent and that he’s probably our best competitor right now," he said. "I think that showed with the two three-set matches he won on Friday and Saturday and then how he hung in there after being pushed by Sock in the final."
Lauren Davis, a 17-year-old from Gates Mills, Ohio, defeated 19-year-old Southern Californian CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-2, 6-2, to win the right to play in the Australian Open main draw on the women’s side.
Davis, currently ranked No. 444 in the WTA world rankings, won all three of her matches over the weekend without dropping a set.
Davis, who trains with the Chris Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., has now 27 consecutive matches and 36 of her last 37 matches. She won two ITF Futures events and the recent Dunlop Junior Orange Bowl and the prestigious Eddie Herr Junior Championships.
"I think I handled the nerves well and I handled her power and everything she threw at me," Davis said afterward.
When told she made only eight unforced errors, Davis was shocked. "Really? That wasn’t my strategy at all," she said. "Of course I wanted to be consistent but I wanted to be aggressive too because if I knew if I didn’t she would just go right through me."
Davis got up quickly 3-0 opening the match with a break of serve and getting another after her hold. She was then broken back to make it 3-1, but controlled the match from there on out.
"All the credit goes to Lauren," said Vandeweghe’s coach Tom Gullikson. "She set the tone for the match with those first few games. She didn’t miss a ball. She forced CoCo to hit a couple three, four, five balls every point and Coco just ended up missing."
Lauren Davis, Gates Mills, Ohio, def. CoCo Vandeweghe (1), Rancho Santa Fe., Calif., 6-2, 6-2
Ryan Harrison (3), Cortez, Fla., def. Jack Sock, Lincoln, Neb., 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4.