World no.232 Andrew Harris spoke to SEN’s Julian de Stoop ahead of his flight to Doha, where he will attempt to qualify for the 2021 Australian Open main draw.
Harris, who received a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open in 2020 unfortunately missed out this year, with fellow Australian's Chris O'Connell, Marc Polmans, Alex Bolt, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Aleksandar Vukic getting the nod this time round. The Melburnian will now need to navigate his way through the qualifying draw if he is to compete in his home slam next month.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year qualifying for the men will be held in Doha and Harris will leave Melbourne tonight in a bid to make it into his second Australian Open main draw: "I fly out at 10:30PM, so it gets me in at 5:30 in the morning on the 6th in Doha,” Harris said.
Harris, who has suffered ongoing back issues throughout his career recently went under the knife, hoping to repair his back in time for the return of the tour last year.
“I’ve had a history of back issues with bulging disks in my back. I just got a procedure, where they inject some stuff into my disk and it burns some of the disk to shrink it so it doesn’t bulge. I actually had that same procedure seven years ago and it helped significantly but this time I didn’t find that it did as much. So I sort of went over to the French open pretty underdone and I probably shouldn’t have been playing to be honest,” Harris said.
In a desperate bid to relieve some stress on his troublesome back, Harris has turned to a new form of off-court training called DNS (Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilisation).
“Since I’ve come home I’ve changed up my training, I’m actually not lifting weights anymore, I’m doing a different form of training called DNS. My back’s been feeling so much better, it’s probably the most ready I’ve felt in over a year which is good," said Harris.
Harris has ditched lifting weights as part of his new training program: “The weights sort of just aggravate my back unfortunately. It’s a relatively new sort of training, its pretty difficult to describe but its like a modified form of yoga. It’s much more technical than yoga, it’s all about body alignment and changing the way my body moves. I think not having the load going through my back has actually helped it so much and just changing my movement patterns and everything has really helped.
I’ve just been able to train more on court, spend a lot more time on court, get the hours up and I think that’s been the best thing for me so far. I’ve been doing it six times a week, it’s frustrating because its like a different language, when you learn it from the start but you just keep improving each time. You can never really perfect it because it’s so technical but so far so good. The proof has been in the amount of hours I’ve been able to stay on court. If if can stay healthy, hopefully I can start getting some results,” Harris stated.
Harris, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2019 has reached as high as 159 in the ATP singles rankings, but due to his back injury, he was unable to take advantage of limited playing opportunities in 2020 and has since dropped over 70 spots to 232 in the ranks.
"It was actually a bit of a tough year to be honest. I was overseas in America and Canada earlier in the year just playing some challengers. Then March came along and I was about to play another tournament and then that's when obviously the COVID all blew up. I got home, did my two weeks self isolation and then it was just sort of like a holding pattern just to figure out when the tour will resume. Initially they said six weeks and obviously that got dragged out all those months. I was in Melbourne the whole time so we had to deal with the stage 3 and stage 4 restrictions, that was obviously pretty tough and just the uncertainty of when the tour will resume. I actually had some back issues, I got a procedure done on my back that kept me out of training for a couple of months, then I finally was able to get back up and going for the French Open, which was in September. Everything was sort of last minute, you couldn't really plan well. It was a bit difficult mentally, obviously coming from all the lockdowns as well it was tough. Hopefully this year will be better but who knows,” Harris explained.
Harris will begin his quest to the Australian Open main draw this week, but COVID-19 protocols won’t make the journey as straight forward as you’d imagine.
“So I get a covid test at the airport upon arrival in Doha. Then I think we’ve got private transport where they’ll take you to the official hotel and you have to isolate for 24 hours until you get your negative test result back. Then once assuming I’m negative, I’ll be able to train on site. So I’ll have three full days of training and then I’ll play on the 10th. I think you have to get a second negative test before you can compete. So one negative test to train but then two negatives to actually compete,” Harris explained.
Qualifying for his home slam would be massive for Harris. The Aussie has earned just over $300,000AUD prize money in his career to date and if he makes it through qualifying, he would pocket $100,000AUD and be presented with another opportunity to claim his maiden grand slam main draw victory.
Harris competed in his first slam main draw at last years Australian Open, but was defeated by 8th seed Matteo Berrettini 3-6, 1-6, 3-6 in the first round.
“It would mean a huge deal. Obviously it was an amazing experience playing my first main draw but I was pretty nervous and I let the occasion get the better of me a bit. Hopefully this time I can earn my way through qualifying and then have another real crack at it with a year under my belt, it would be amazing if I could qualify this year,” Harris said.
You can listen to the Julian de Stoop's full chat with Andrew Harris below.