World No 7 Alexander Zverev has alerted the tennis world to the burgeoning talents of South Africa's rising tennis star Lloyd Harris, who is presently 90th on the ATP rankings.
Harris, a qualifier, took a set off Germany's Russian-born Zverev in their recent match at the ATP event in Cologne, Germany. Zverev won this quarter-final clash 6-3, 3-6, 6-0.
The outcome could have been different, but Harris picked up an injury in the final set, and was unable to sustain the challenge.
After the match, Zverev, the US Open runner-up, was gracious enough to acknowledge that Harris' main draw challenge was impaired because he played qualifying round matches.
"Harris went through qualifying, so he had a lot of matches under his belt already," said Zverev.
"He is playing with a lot of confidence. He is playing well. He is somebody that I think will go up the rankings quite easily if he continues playing the way he is playing."
Zverev said he first became aware of Harris after watching him play against his older brother Mischa.
"He improved his game a lot," said Zverev. "The first time I saw him was against Misch in Halle last year and I think he has improved a lot since then.
"The end of this year and next year will be very important for him (his rankings).
It was not the only time Harris took a set off a top-10 player. Last year, Harris famously won the first set against Swiss great Roger Federer in a first-round Wimbledon match on centre court.
Since then, Harris has spent time with Federer in Cape Town earlier this year at the "Match in Africa" charity event.
"Firstly, I think he's a great guy, that's always key," said Federer after a practice session.
"He's got great character. I think a lot of his game.
"To be honest, I had a tough one against him at Wimbledon last year."
This year Harris has improved in leaps and bounds and he now has one of the most lethal serves on the men's tour. Observers say he has learnt to stay focused during matches and he has a high work rate.
Harris said he was not entirely over his injury.
"The recovery has been slow, but it is getting better," said Harris.
"The body took some heavy knocks during the transition from clay to the hard courts, but I feel better. Just trying to get the glute to heal as well."
Presently, Harris is in Belgium where he is playing in the European Open, an ATP 250 event in Antwerp. After qualifying, Harris has reached Thursday's round of 16 and will go up against American seventh-seed Taylor Fritz.
- Tennis SA