The wrong line in the grocery store; the wrong lane in traffic; saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to precisely the wrong people; wearing white clothing and assuming it’s safe to drink one’s Americano while careening down a pothole infested freeway; colliding with plate-glass doors while carrying one’s Americano; thinking it’s a good idea to pay an extra buck for someone to use a 8 oz. of water to make a perfectly good espresso into an Americano: it’s been one of those weeks, not horrifying, but definitely cringe-worthy. It’s as if I’ve been channeling the trivial psychic in reverse, and all the minor decisions I’ve made this week have turned out to be the opposite of right.
Given my special new gift for inverting good decisions and spilling hot coffee on whatsoever I touch, I’ve been loath to commit to a post about you-know-who playing you-know-where in you-know-what this weekend. You know what I mean, of course.
Alas! Superstition. It’s a sure sign of fandom.
There’s no denying it, I was elated when I read that US Davis Cup captain, Jim Courier, awarded Ryan Harrison the #2 position after a fatigued Mardy Fish withdrew from the upcoming quarterfinal tie against France. (Would not Fatigued Fish be an awesome Indie band name? It would.) But it also gives me a case of the fluttery anxieties. I’d been expecting a low-key tennis weekend. Sure, maybe I’d tune into Argentina-Croatia to see if Pico remembered to pack his SEOpen form when he left Miami, or do some casual investigative research to see whether Ivo has a new-found carnivorous glint in his eye. Perhaps I’d check out the Charleston final, or go see which hapless team the Spaniards are beating up on now. Or maybe— revolutionary thought—I’d even go play some tennis myself.
But no, it turns out I will be waking up somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 AM on Friday morning to watch the 66th ranked kiddo play on the clay in Monte Carlo. He’ll face either the 6th ranked Jo Tsonga, or the 13th ranked Gilles Simon in a red-dirt rematch of their three-setter at Indian Wells. (Apparently there’s a chance Benneteau or Llodra might take Gilles’ singles position if he isn’t fully recovered from a sore back. *conflicting information*) Since 3 AM is equally close to the witching hour of the California night as it is to what is traditionally known as “the wee hours of morning,” it’s possible that I’ll record the festivities for viewing at a more civilized time—like on Saturday— but I will be watching. As the man-child himself might say, I’ve got the “pep in my step” for this Davis Cup tie [Insert joke about Ryan not knowing how to tie his own tie here].
I’m well aware that many readers here are fellow Rafa-fans and you might not share my enthusiasm for Ryan, yet I know you can relate to feeling invested. I could wax eloquent about why I’m drawn Harrison’s burgeoning game, but I’ve already devoted a few posts to Ryan’s finer points—and will likely dedicate one more if he merely comes close to winning on Friday. Despite the fact that both have four-lettered first names beginning with the letter “R,” Ryan is no Rafa. Most notably, he loses a lot more. (Also, he breaks sh*t.) But that’s part of the appeal; it’s exciting to begin (relatively) near the beginning with Ryan. Every loss is grist for the figurative mill, and each win brings double the usual thrill. In short, I don’t have to wait for the final to get all giddy and jump around the living room.
The thing that concerns me most is the startlingly positive energy that surrounds his selection, as if a win is not only possible, but likely. As we and Donald Young well know, hype is not always helpful. Harrison has had some quality losses in best-of-five matches, for example, he went five sets before succumbing to David Ferrer at Wimbledon last year. He took a set off of Soderling at Roland Garros and one from Murray in Australia. Ivan Ljubicic was in the top twenty when Ryan upset him at the US Open in 2010, but Ryan has yet to defeat a top ten player and he still struggles with scoring clean wins against players he arguably overmatches. It’s entirely possible that Ryan will get bageled and break a dozen racquets and I’ll have to hide under my sackcloth until everyone is done saying they told him (and me) so. (Ah, what would a fan experience be without preparations for the worst? Constant vigilance!)
Nonetheless, it should be noted that the kiddo is not allergic to clay dust:
“I love to play on clay,” he explained. “Where I grew up in Louisiana I had 12 clay courts so I’m very comfortable sliding and I like playing on it. It’s going to be something that helps my game.”
And Jim points out that Ryan is the kind of splendid fool who always rushes in:
But French captain, Guy Forget, thinks Ryan's presence is a boon to France:
“The American captain doesn't have a choice in singles. He can't choose one of the Bryan brothers. So Harrison will play on Friday.“I thought Jim Courier might have called up Sam Querrey or even Andy Roddick. Harrison is a player for the future. We don't really know his true potential.”
Yet that’s the magical thing about potential; you never know when it could become kinetic. And the future? It might only be a day away.
photos: AP and Getty