Professional tennis is full of siblings. The Williams sisters, the Murray brothers, the Bryan brothers, the Pliskova twins… not to mention Marat Safin and Dinara Safina, who made theirs the only family in history to produce both an ATP and WTA world no. 1.
These are just a few of the more high profile names in recent times, but other brothers and sisters are making their way on tour even now. The next duo to rank in the ATP’s top 100 simultaneously could be Ryan and Christian Harrison.
The current world no. 56 and a former top 40 player, Ryan Harrison is well known in the USA and amongst tennis fans abroad – having won an ATP title in Memphis and the French Open men’s doubles trophy last season. But Christian Harrison, who turns 24 early next week, is still on the rise and far removed from the limelight. This is thanks in part to a range of physical issues that have set him back – similar to several former top 100 players who are currently in action at the Loughborough Trophy. Now that these woes are behind him, the younger Harrison brother sits at a career-high ranking of world no. 215.
“The first key was just staying healthy,” the American confirmed of his recent rise. “That was the biggest thing, just because I had a tough run with some injuries and was never really able to stay with it.
“But as far as playing well, it’s just being willing to make adjustments, because the games – and how you feel day in and day out – are always different. So that’s the biggest key.”
This was something the 23-year-old did successfully during his opening clash at the Loughborough Trophy. World no. 317 Alessandro Bega far outplayed his ranking on Centre Court, staying aggressive and mixing up his shots to drive Harrison to frustration. But after losing a lopsided first set, the American added fresh tactics to his relentless ball-striking – heeding his own mid-match advice to stop playing ’25 feet behind the baseline’ – to come through 6-3 1-6 6-1.
“I was just trying to stay calm and play every point, because he was playing really well, and he was dangerous – especially on his forehand,” Harrison analysed after the match. “So he was an uncomfortable player to face, just because he was coming up with really good shots… and I knew I had to come a little bit closer to the court because I was getting run around too much.”
Despite being stretched to three sets, another positive for Harrison is the fact that he managed to come through a tough match following a swift turnaround.
“I was coming from clay-courts, so it was a quick transition into indoors – an opposite surface,” Harrison commented. “And I just feel like I played a pretty good match, adjusted well and got it done.”
The right-hander’s physical game does particularly stand out from the crowd, but it appears solid all-round, with a good serve and fluid groundstrokes. And recent results suggest that Harrison is comfortable on all surfaces. The 23-year-old played a Challenger final on clay earlier this month, and came through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells Challenger back in March – losing only to world no. 83 Vasek Pospisil.
Crucially, the American is not feeling the pressure of being the younger sibling of an established and scrutinsed – in the States, at least – ATP player.
“It’s just another positive, because we come from a tennis family, so we’re always talking and we can relate to one another,” Harrison said of his relationship with 26-year-old brother Ryan.
“He always has something to say, you know, if I’m struggling or I need to call him. And it’s vice versa, too, so we have a pretty good relationship. It’s good we can kind of bond over having a similar interest.”
If Christian Harrison can stay fit, maintain focus and keep playing smart during tough matches, the brothers might be seeing a lot more of each other on tour in the near future.