Lloyd Harris earned the biggest win of his career on Tuesday, when he stunned top seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The South African dropped only one point behind his first serve (29/30) and struck 23 winners to eliminate the US Open champion after 72 minutes. This is Harris’ first win against a Top 5 player. The 24-year-old claimed his first Top 20 win at last week’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open against Stan Wawrinka.
“I’m super, super happy with that win. [He is] by far the highest-ranked player I have beaten,” Harris said in an on-court interview. “I look up to Domi a lot so, for me, it is a special feeling. I am really happy. Just the fact that I am playing good tennis, match in, match out now is giving me a lot of confidence.”
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Harris was happy to engage in backhand-to-backhand rallies early in the first set. The South African proved the more consistent player on the stroke to earn the first break points of the match at 2-1 and he converted his second chance with a cross-court backhand winner.
Throughout the match, Harris held serve without being forced to deuce. The World No. 81 earned the only break of the second set at 3-3, when he rushed Thiem with deep backhand returns and capitalised on two double faults. Harris closed the match with a powerful first serve into Thiem’s backhand.
“I was serving really well. I don’t think I faced any break points,” said Harris. “I took control of those games and [in] one or two games on his serve, I gave myself a good look. I played some of the important points very well. I am very proud of that.”
“[I had] troubles returning his serve,” said Thiem. “[There were] also way too many easy mistakes from my side, from the baseline. I said a couple of days ago that if I am not playing at my best level, it is not enough against all of the players in the draw.”
Harris will meet 14th seed Filip Krajinovic for a quarter-final spot. The Serbian saved all four break points he faced to defeat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-5, 6-4 in 80 minutes.
Kei Nishikori extended his unbeaten ATP Head2Head record against David Goffin to 4-0 with a 6-3, 7-6(3) win. The Japanese, who reached the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament quarter-finals earlier this month, will face Aljaz Bedene in the third round. Bedene landed 10 aces and won 92 per cent of his first-serve points to beat Lorenzo Giustino 6-4, 6-3.
Karen Khachanov also advanced to the third round on Tuesday. The Russian outlasted Singapore champion Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) in two hours and 16 minutes. Khachanov will meet Jeremy Chardy for a place in the quarter-finals.