Tennis

Djokovic routs Harrison to advance

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Richard Evans

Richard Evans has covered tennis since the 1960s, reporting on more than 150 Grand Slams. He is author of 15 books, including the official history of the Davis Cup and the unofficial history of the modern game in "Open Tennis." Follow him on Twitter.

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Venus Williams, wearing a dress that looked as if it has been taken from an artist's palette, set up a third-round clash with Maria Sharapova after outplaying Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-3 in the first of the night matches on Rod Laver Arena.

Novak Djokovic has no need of an artist's brushstrokes. He just uses canon fire to demolish his opponents and, for the second time in the last three Grand Slams, America's 20-year-old Ryan Harrison was his victim.

A score of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 just about reflected the extent of the rout. Harrison, released from the nerves that accompany any notion of hope, started to find some rhythm in the third set after being broken in his first service game of the match.

"From then on out, he just had his foot on the gas pedal," said Harrison.

Basically Ryan got whooped. But the young man's self-confidence is worn like an armor against adversity and he remained undaunted. "I've played him three times now. I'm not there yet. I know how to get there. I just got to keep working at it."

'There' for Harrison is No. 1 in the world and he doesn't mind people knowing it. His ambition is obvious and, as Djokovic says, there is no harm in that. But he is also a realist and knows he is setting out on a long and difficult path.

He admitted that for a couple of days he had been "all excited" about wanting to make a statement, wanting to win this match and wanting to step up.

"But, even if, somehow, I was able to win this match, with the way he played tonight, I still have so far to go before I can play that level consistently. For me, it's just exciting because I don't look at it as unfortunate to play these guys early. I've been fortunate enough to play, in the last eight, nine Slams against top guys in every round. Hopefully in two, three years I'm not going to be caught off guard because I've seen this level and I know want to expect. I've just got to keep working. That's the bottom line."

Harrison then offered a good analysis of what it is that makes Djokovic such a formidable opponent. "I'm going to have to get better at what he does so well which is, like absorb and then send back. He doesn't just hit really hard and really good when he's on the offense. He takes hard, deep ball and sends them back hard and deep. Any time I had a chance to attack a forehand, it came back at the exact same speed. That's what I have to get better at. I have to get better at being able to go side to side with these guys. He's going to be an extremely good person for me to emulate as far as how I want to play my baseline points because he stands on the baseline and doesn't give ground."

Harrison is a student of the game and works at it day and night. "I watched an hour and a half of me playing Djokovic this morning do find out things. I've seen him play on TV a ton. I love watching tennis. I love learning. I see the way it needs to be played. It's hard to execute. You've just got to go out and work at it. And I will. It's just going to take time."

Listening to Harrison talk like this after such a chastening experience in front of 15,000 people you just have to say "Go for it, young man, and good luck."

Venus is not one to sit and analyze her game. "I play the ball," she says. "There's going to be days when you play great and win and then days when you play not as great and still win. I don't have to play perfect every match."

Against Sharapova, who, amazingly, has won both her matches 6-0, 6-0, anything less than perfect probably won't do.
In the meantime Venus is happier talking about her tennis apparel designs. She had been complimented on the dress and said, "That's very satisfying because I work hard on the designs. I spend all day and night on the designs. I eat hot fries during the design sessions. One time I ordered some hot fries and, bam, the next day I had the best ideas. But I've really had to discontinue that. I can't eat hot fries. But I credit all those designs to hot fries."

So now you know.
 

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