Lloyd Harris takes on Alexander Zverev in US Open quarter-finals

The WhatsApp SMS channel grew to around 100 people, many of them in Cape Town with others spread around the world, playing tennis and se...

The WhatsApp SMS channel grew to around 100 people, many of them in Cape Town with others spread around the world, playing tennis and sending their congratulations and enthusiastic messages of support to Lloyd Harris.

“They’re all over there to congratulate me,” Harris said. “It’s such a special feeling. They are like my family.

The common thread includes the coaches, administrators, parents and children who train at the Anthony Harris Academy (unrelated), where Lloyd Harris developed as a professional tennis player. Lloyd Harris is their inspiration, their affirmation of success, an example that it can work. But most important for them all, he is their academy brother.

“He means so much to these kids and they all admire him,” said Anthony Harris, who has been Lloyd Harris’ head coach since joining the academy in 2012, in an interview from Cape Town. “They stay up late and talk about his qualities. It’s a fantastic inspiration for everyone.

Lloyd Harris, 24, broke into the US Open men’s singles quarter-finals to cap a summer that included a win over Rafael Nadal in Washington last month. Upon arriving in New York, he beat three seeds – Karen Khachanov, Denis Shapovalov and Reilly Opelka – to reach his first major quarter-final, where he will face No.4 seed Germany’s Alexander Zverev on Wednesday.

“I always knew I had the ability,” Harris said. “I’ve never had a problem beating some of the best guys. But he was playing regularly at this level, which was a bit more difficult for me.

Harris’s rapid rise is followed with great enthusiasm in Cape Town, his hometown, and in particular at the unique academy which helped launch his career. His parents heard about the program and asked Anthony Harris if he would agree to take their son. Lloyd Harris joined in 2012 at the age of 14 and quickly became the most accomplished student in the program.

“I told his mother,” said Anthony Harris, ““ Your son is special. He has a chance to do something great in this sport. She said, ‘Let’s go.’ “

The Anthony Harris Tennis Academy, a small enclave tucked away in the Tony Bantry Bay area of ​​Cape Town, has grown since Lloyd Harris arrived. It now has five coaches, three hard blue courts and one clay court. There is a small residence for the most financially disadvantaged students, some of whom lived in slums before settling there and attended for free.

It’s not a glamorous corporate academy, but it has helped make Harris the player and the person he is, and the two Harrises see her as family.

“I never went once to the academy where there was a bad vibe or a bad vibe,” said Lloyd Harris. “It’s always positive energy, the coaches have fun with the kids, but work hard. It’s just this really special thing.

Lloyd Harris, who is currently ranked 46th, grew up in a middle-class household, but many of the academy’s students come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

While academics and human development are integral to the curriculum, tennis is at the forefront of the academy’s mission. Those who meet certain criteria, regarding their progression through the ranks of junior tennis, receive funding to travel the world as they attempt to become professionals. The others focus on getting a college scholarship.

At first there were only a handful of children. There are now a dozen, and the hope is that we can accommodate about eight more. The academy took on a child who was found foraging for food and another who showed promise in tennis but was kicked out of a different program for behavioral issues.

“Maybe we can change their lives,” said Anthony Harris. “It’s like the old fable about giving someone a fishing rod. We cannot help a thousand children. But maybe we can help 15 or 20.

Leo Matthysen, 15, lives in Mitchells Plain, outside Cape Town, and is the highest ranked boy aged 15 and under in all of Africa after spending the last few years at the academy.

Also longtime academy members Kelly Arends and Mikaeel Woodman were recently awarded scholarships to play for Tyler Junior College, a Texas school with one of the top junior varsity tennis programs in the United States, and they arrived there two weeks ago to begin their freshman seasons.

Woodman, 18, also grew up in Mitchells Plain, in what he called “a really tough area”. He said that without the academy he might have ended up in a gang.

“It took me off the streets and changed my life,” Woodman said after training at Tyler Junior College on Tuesday. “I went there when I was 10 and I got to watch Lloyd for seven or eight years. I really want to play professionally like him someday.

With Anthony Harris as the head coach on an eight-person team, tennis is seen as a driver of success, and Lloyd Harris is their model T.

Shortly after arriving in 2012, he and the coach began to travel the continent with Lloyd playing tournaments in Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Morocco and Egypt, never to name a few, then moved on to tournaments in Europe and Asia. before turning pro in 2015.

“One of the things I’m most proud of, and I said that to Lloyd,” said Anthony Harris, “is that he never got a single wild-card entry in a tournament. foreground. He had to work for everything he got.

Funding is always an issue for the academy. The family of Eswatini billionaire businessman Nathan Kirsh are a major contributor, and Lloyd Harris is hosting a golf tournament in Cape Town in November to help raise funds for a program close to his heart. .

“We’ve come such a long way and from where it started, this little little program, to what it’s become now,” said Lloyd Harris. “It is a home for so many children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who now have these incredible opportunities.”

With the demands of his profession and the difficulty of traveling to and from one of the most remote areas on earth (at least for tennis trips), Lloyd Harris moved to Dubai, where he now trains. He has not returned to South Africa all year round due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic. He worked with Xavier Malisse, the former best professional player, in collaboration with Anthony Harris.

But before his pandemic-induced temporary hiatus, Lloyd Harris regularly returned to the academy to train and strike with the kids in the field.

“You should see how they revolve around him and how he reacts,” said Dionne Harris, Anthony’s wife and the senior administrator who keeps the academy running smoothly. “He brings them equipment and things and lets them return his services. He’s like the hero.

Lloyd Harris doesn’t go that far. But he recognizes his role in the lives of all children on this WhatsApp thread, encouraging him.

“They see how I behave, how I work but also have fun on the pitch,” said Lloyd Harris. “I know they are watching. I hope I can teach them well.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Lloyd Harris takes on Alexander Zverev in US Open quarter-finals
Lloyd Harris takes on Alexander Zverev in US Open quarter-finals
Newsrust - US Top News
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