Lloyd Harris: I want to inspire SA youngsters

Rising South African tennis star Lloyd Harris has shed light on how difficult it is to be based in South Africa and compete on the ATP Tour.

FILE: South Africa's Lloyd Harris in action against Roger Federer in their first-round match at Wimbledon on 2 July 2019. Picture: @Wimbledon/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Rising South African tennis star Lloyd Harris believes that tennis is a sport that can grow in South Africa and that local players do not have to go overseas to make a name for themselves.

The 22-year-old is currently in London as part of the ATP University programme where the top 200 players in the world come together for education on topics like social media, anti-corruption, financial management, media training and anti-doping.

It has been a stellar year for the youngster from Cape Town, who reached a career-high ranking of 82 earlier this year.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly making his debut in the main draw at Wimbledon in July and playing Roger Federer on centre court.

“I had messages from friends, family and even people who I don’t know congratulating me, even though I didn’t win. It was amazing to see the response that I got and whenever I talk to someone that I don’t know they always bring up the fact that I played against Roger [Federer]”, he said.

Kevin Anderson has flown the flag for South Africa in recent years, reaching a career-best ranking of 5th in the world in 2018 and became the first South African to reach the Wimbledon men’s singles final since 1985.

Harris said it was good to have another player competing on the world stage.

“It’s good for South Africa that we now have another player that’s playing at a high level. Especially with living in South Africa, I think that it boosts the people a lot and shows the country that we can also produce players locally," he said.

The 101st-ranked player in the world also sheds light on how difficult it was to be based in South Africa.

“It’s been difficult, and to be honest, people told me I won’t be able to make it if I stay in South Africa but we wanted to prove everyone wrong and we kind of did it. I’m trying to inspire the kids back home to show them that you can still live in South Africa, travel all around the world and make it through the ranks. South Africa doesn’t really have a lot of tournaments with quality opposition that you might find in America and so it becomes really expensive to travel to take part in those tournaments overseas. There are also question marks about the facilities and training in South Africa when compared to Europe or America. I feel that none of that is true, I have everything I need and more in South Africa so its just about how you make use of the things you do have," he said.

Harris also had the chance to catch some of the action at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals and said he was enjoying the experience.

"It inspires you to see this amazing stage, the amazing facilities and just everything that goes into this year-end tour. Competing in the finals as part of the top eight in the world is where everyone wants to be, and I think its really something that inspires you to improve your game," he said.