By Sally Milano, USTA.com
Ryan Harrison has earned accolades on the court as one of the most promising young Americans currently competing in pro tennis. But his actions off the court at a USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Savannah, Ga., the week of April 22, are what earned him praise from staff, volunteers and fans at the $50,000 clay-court event.
Savannah Tournament Director Scott Mitchell said Harrison was extremely accommodating with any request that was made of him during the tournament, including making himself available to do multiple interviews for media. What gained the most notice, however, was the work he did to help a local charity.
This year, proceeds from the Savannah Challenger went to America’s Second Harvest, a food bank that feeds 500,000 families, children and adults throughout the southeast.
"We were collecting money and food and canned goods and boxed goods throughout the week," Mitchell said. "And over the weekend, Ryan pulled up to the front gate in his car, opened up his trunk and unloaded four or five bags full of canned goods and boxed goods that just completely filled up the whole barrel (used to hold donations). You just don’t find that from the players very often."
Harrison, 20, from Austin, Texas, has been considered one of the most promising young tennis players in the U.S. since turning pro in 2007. He reached three semifinals in 2012 to climb to a career-high ranking of No. 43 in the world. And earlier this year, he reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open tune-up event in Sydney, Australia, before advancing to the second round of the Australian Open. He has played in the US Open main draw the last three years, upsetting No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic to reach the second round in 2010, and has represented the United States in Davis Cup play and on the Olympic team for the 2012 Games in London.
Currently No. 81 in the ATP rankings, Harrison picked up his fourth career USTA Pro Circuit title by defeating Facundo Arguello of Argentina, 6-2, 6-3, in the final of the Savannah Challenger. But in the end, taking home the championship will not be what people remember most about his time at the tournament; they’ll remember his generosity to help people in need.
"I played college tennis and have been around professional tennis all my life, so I know that the normal tennis player doesn’t really do that as often as you would hope they would," Mitchell said. "It made a big statement to the patrons and the volunteer staff who watched him do it. He won a ton of fans over this past week."