Ryan Harrison should be no stranger to Aviators fans. In his rookie year playing World TeamTennis, Harrison and his Aviators teammates beat the Orange County Breakers in the league finals to win the 2016 WTT Championship and the coveted King Trophy. If that wasn’t enough, he was named 2016 WTT MVP, the same year Aviators Coach John Lloyd was named WTT Coach of the Year. He returned for a second season with the Aviators in 2017, and once again, the team reached the league finals, though this time their SoCal rivals, the Breakers, bested them in the end. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, Harrison missed the 2018 WTT season.
Fortunately for us, returning this year for his third season in Aviators red is none other than Ryan Harrison. A huge fan favorite known for his high energy and exuberant team spirit, not to mention a white-hot serve (he’s been clocked at 152 mph), he’ll look to rekindle the magic he found in his award-winning rookie season with Coach Lloyd, this time as a marquee player alongside all new teammates, including one he knows quite well: his brother, Christian Harrison.
“Christian and I have played doubles together and there is nothing better in the world than that,” says Ryan. “We are brothers and best friends. Playing with him on the East Coast road swing will be incredible. To be completely honest, I am most excited about that. We don’t get to spend as much time together as we would both like, so that week together will be amazing for us and our family. Hopefully we can do well and put on a show for the fans.”
It will be a road show, though, as all of Ryan’s appearances will take place during the Aviators’ swing through New York, Philadelphia Washington, D.C., and Orlando.“I won’t be able to come to amazing San Diego but I hope to help get the team off to a great start on the season,” says Ryan. “I know the first week is loaded and I have some tough matchups against John Isner in New York and Frances Tiafoe in D.C. I’m sure these matches will give me great preparation for the US Open Swing.” Though fans would love to watch Ryan play on home turf, chances are good he’ll miss the energetic San Diego crowd as much as they’ll miss him. “My favorite part of WTT is the crowd and the noise,” he says. “I love playing in front of crowds, whether they are heckling me or cheering for me. I think tennis needs to allow crowds to express themselves more and WTT does that better than any other tennis event in the world. I love looking up and seeing people smiling, talking, and having a great time.”
His appreciation for the league, its format, and its fans shone through in his previous time with the Aviators, and it’s something that still holds true. “I love World TeamTennis,” he confesses. “As a tennis player, you do not get to play on teams that often so whenever there is a chance to play with teammates, I jump at the opportunity.”
He hit a career-high World No. 40 in 2017 while playing his second season for the Aviators. Coach Lloyd often references the league’s fast pace for helping players, including Ryan, adapt to high-pressure match play and up their level of play, and Ryan agrees. “WTT matches fly by and you need to be on your game from the very first point. You and the team cannot fall behind 3-0 or 4-1 like you can in regular matches. You also have the added pressure of playing for a team and more than just yourself. You look over to the bench and see Coach Lloyd and three to four other players cheering you on, [which] also makes the matches more intense. Playing WTT gives you experience in tough pressure situations that is invaluable as a player. There is nothing a player can do besides have experience in those situations,” he says.
Though he’s faced some setbacks since we last saw him play WTT, he’s focused on a comeback as he prepares to head to Europe for the clay season leading up to Roland-Garros, where he and partner Michael Venus won men’s doubles in 2017. “Last year was tough with some injuries that I had to battle at the end of the season, but some of my highlights have been reaching the Finals in the ATL open and getting my singles ranking back up. My personal goals in 2019 are to remain healthy and help San Diego start 4-0!”
Catch Ryan Harrison in his return to the Aviators at the July 14 World TeamTennis season opener in New York as it is livestreamed in real time on WTT.tv.