Ryan Harrison has always been on the fast track to tennis success.
The 18-year-old started playing at age 3, turned pro at 15, and already has competed in three Grand Slam tournaments and one Davis Cup.
Harrison added to his already impressive tennis resume yesterday by beating Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the rain-delayed final of the Honolulu Challenger at Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park.
Naturally, Harrison has set some lofty goals for the next couple of years.
"Before I get to age 20, I’m not going to rule anything out, said Harrison, ranked No. 172 in the world. "Try to win a Grand Slam. We’ll start there, but obviously I’ve got a long ways to go, a lot of work to do. I believe in myself a lot. It doesn’t matter who I play, I’m going to go out there and try to win. I’m always going to have the confidence that I can win, so you never know what I can do. But I’m definitely setting my goals high."
Harrison and Kuznetsov, ranked No. 250, both had early exits from the Australian Open. Harrison, of Bradenton, Fla., lost in the first round of the main draw, while Kuznetsov, 23, lost on the final day of qualifying.
Both players primarily exchanged ground strokes yesterday and neither was overpowering with his serve. Harrison had three aces and three double faults, while Kuznetsov had zero aces and two double faults.
Harrison, the No. 6 seed, won the final four games of the first set behind a flurry of unforced errors by Kuznetsov. On set point, the unseeded Kuznetsov netted a return while charging the net, then fired his racket into the net.
"Four-2 and I had a couple of easy balls that I missed," said Kuznetsov, who is from Richboro, Pa., but trains in Tampa, Fla. "I got a little frustrated. The thing with Ryan is he doesn’t give you many free points. He stayed on me when I missed a few shots there."
The score was tied at 40-all in the first game of the second set when play was halted because of a slight drizzle. Shortly after, it turned into a downpour.
After things cleared up, the court was squeegeed and dried with air blowers. Play continued after a 1-hour, 45-minute delay.
Kuznetsov took the next two points to win the game, then the rain started falling again and the match was halted for 10 minutes.
Kuznetsov broke Harrison’s serve in first, third and ninth games.
"I came out and I got the early break," Kuznetsov said. "It was a good start. Sitting there for a little bit (during the first delay) I kind of gathered my thoughts and reassess what I did wrong in the first set. I did that and started playing the way I wanted to play."
In the third set, Harrison took control by winning the first four games.
"Fortunately at the beginning of the third set, I was able to take some momentum off of him," Harrison said. "I just tried to move my court positioning up a couple of feet up near the baseline and tried to be a little closer, a little more aggressive."
Harrison won $7,200 and 80 rankings points. He is young, talented and fiery.
When play was halted for the second time, Harrison angrily shouted the word "ridiculous" toward tournament officials and said the match should have been moved up an hour to 10 a.m. because rain was forecast for the afternoon. He then slammed his racket on to his tennis bag.
After double-faulting and having his service broken in the third game of the second set, Harrison yelled, "God dang it!" and was going to say something else. But he elected to hold back and just threw his arms up in disgust.
Harrison also muttered things to himself during the match.
"As long as I can keep the comments more to myself and try not to swear or offend anybody," Harrison said. "Just do it in a way that I’m building myself up emotionally. You never want to be a jerk on the court, or be disrespectful to your opponent or anyone else in the crowd."
Kuznetsov won $4,240 and 48 rankings points. He had won all three of his previous three-set matches in the 32-player tournament.
"First off, participating and getting to the final was a great accomplishment for me," Kuznetsov said. "It’s the beginning of the year and you’re always looking for a good start. Coming here to Hawaii and getting all the way to the singles final is as good of a start that I could have hoped for. Of course, I would have liked to have won the match today."
The doubles final between Kuznetsov/Robert Kendrick and Harrison/Travis Rettenmaier wasn’t played yesterday because Kendrick came down with tennis elbow.