WIMBLEDON, England — After another one of his backhand strokes skidded into the net, Ryan Harrison screamed, “Move!”
Since the start of the year, Harrison has zoomed up the world rankings, climbing 236 spots to No. 122 on the strength of a serve and forehand that are mature beyond his 19 years. But six games into his match Thursday at Wimbledon, the 6-foot Harrison looked every inch his age.
He was handing his second-round opponent, David Ferrer, points on his serve like a peddler distributing free samples. The book on Harrison is that he manages his game much better than his temper. So when he opened his mouth to scold his feet, there was reason to worry he was about to trip the floodgates on his emotions.
As Andy Roddick, to whom Harrison most often is compared, kindly put it, “He goes a little mental sometimes.”
Harrison held himself together, no small victory in itself. And while he could not outlast darkness, he might still survive Ferrer, the No. 7 seed. Their match on Court 2 was suspended at 9 p.m. with Harrison ahead by two sets to one and trailing, four games to two, in the fourth.
Harrison, a Louisiana-born Floridian, has been pegged as the United States’ next great prospect. To watch him against Ferrer was to see shades of America’s three most recent Grand Slam champions. He struck a few serve-and-volley winners that called to mind Pete Sampras, displayed the scorched-earth forehand and competitiveness of Roddick and stalked the court with Andre Agassi’s pigeon-toed gait.
“He cares so much about winning and losing,” Roddick said, “which I don’t think we’ve had enough of, frankly, in the States as far as the up-and-coming players. It’s just a matter of him figuring out a comfortable line where it’s not a different emotion every day.”
The only aspect of Harrison’s persona that underwent a visible change Thursday was his wardrobe. He slipped on a new shirt during one changeover as his young female fans whistled approvingly. Their reaction made Harrison smile in spite of himself.
It was a good look, much better than the scowl that darkened his face in his first-round match against Ivan Dodig of Croatia. The first set was decided in a tie break, during which Harrison became piqued when a first serve he hit for a winner was erroneously called out.
He spent more than a minute arguing with the chair umpire, who had instructed him to replay the point. When Harrison finally served, he lost the point but won the tie breaker and the match, 7-6 (5), 6-0, 7-5.
“He’s got to harness that energy a little bit,” Roddick said, adding, “I think it’s between the ears at this point.”
Harrison does not disagree.
“I think if I didn’t have to worry about the mental side of things, then I’d be a lot more successful,” he said. “That’s the facts of it. Whenever I’m sitting down in a chair thinking about it and talking about it, it seems pretty logical: just control your emotions and you’ll play well. But in any situation where things are falling the other way, especially since I’ve been such a fiery competitor since I was young, the thing that has helped me has also been the thing that can hurt me.”
As Harrison’s ranking rises, so do expectations, which is part of the problem.
“I think the biggest thing that has been tough for me as far as controlling emotions is playing matches where I feel like when I lose it’s an underachievement,” Harrison said.
He is not alone in this fight. After winning his second-round match against Kevin Anderson, Novak Djokovic spoke of his ongoing struggle to embrace the pressure rather than be strangled by it.
“Obviously I’m learning over the years how to control my emotions,” said Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open champion and the No. 2 seed here.
On Thursday, Ferrer was the one whose emotions ran hot. After being broken in the fifth game of the third set, his flash of anger earned him a ball abuse warning. When Harrison was younger, any such displays of anger earned him a punishment of 20 push-ups by order of his parents.
That would explain the strength behind Harrison’s whip of a forehand, which Ferrer might have been seeing in his sleep Thursday night. Last year, another hot, young American prospect took more than one day to complete a Wimbledon match.
His name was John Isner, and on Thursday he succumbed to Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3. He was gone after the second round, same as last year, after he needed 11 hours and three days to defeat Nicolas Mahut in his opener.
Isner was asked if he had any advice for Harrison on sleeping on a match.
“No,” he replied. “He can figure it out.”