Back in February 2004, Wayne Ferreira and Wesley Moodie were the South African players ranked in the top-100 and tennis fans from this country had to wait for almost 15 years to see that again. As we all know, Kevin Anderson has been one of the best players in the world in the last couple of seasons after competing in two Grand Slam finals and at the ATP Finals last November, although he was a lonely rider among the elite 100, with no countrymen who could follow him.
That all changed on Monday when the 21-year-old Lloyd Harris cracked the top-100 for the first time after winning the third Challenger title in Launceston, joining Anderson in that group and getting the reward after stellar 12 months he had on the Tour.
The Cape Town native had barely been ranked inside the top-300 a year ago, as one of many young players who were trying to make a breakthrough in the rankings and secure the place in the main draws of Challenger events. Lloyd managed to do that after winning 22 out of 24 Futures matches, moving to the higher level and steadily improving his game to claim the maiden Challenger title in Lexington in August, followed by the final in Aptos and the US Open main draw as a qualifier.
Lloyd conquered another Challenger crown in Stockton, setting a firm course towards the top-100 and achieving the goal with a dominant performance in Launceston, just two weeks after making the Australian Open debut. The hard-hitting youngster was the dominant figure during the entire week, fending off eight out of ten break points to secure the title without losing a set, beating Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-2 in the final.
Equipped with a booming serve and massive groundstrokes, Harris has been working on various elements of his game that made him very dangerous on the fast surfaces and he is indeed capable of fighting for some small ATP 250 title during the season.
Anderson didn't miss a chance to congratulate his young compatriot and they are certainly hoping to see more new faces from South Africa on the Tour, having just four ranked players on the reduced ATP list, with only Harris younger than 27!
“I was consistent throughout the week, I focused very well. I was just competing for every point out there and really trying to battle,” Harris said. “I was making it really difficult for guys to break me, so that was one of the keys.
For me, it definitely helps me get one step closer to where I want be, ultimately being a top 100 player consistently. A lot of physical work, fitness, and trying to get some better agility, also working on my service percentage”.