27-year-old Australian Andrew Harris is finally ready to make his return to the tour, with the Australian Open in his sights.
Since graduating from The University of Oklahoma in 2017, Andrew Harris has suffered a treacherous run with injury, allowing him only one full year on the tour without any hiccups.
That year was 2019 - and it saw him rise almost 200 spots within a matter of months to a career-high ranking of 159.
Following his breakout season, the tour paused as COVID-19 hit. Unfortunately, Harris has managed just four tournaments since.
Early in 2021, Harris elected to go under the knife, requiring hip surgery to fix ongoing back issues he has struggled with since his early playing days.
The plan was to return to the tour in the second half of the year.
“It was a long, frustrating year,” Harris told The First Serve’s Jedd Zetzer.
“Obviously after the hip surgery I did most of my rehab over here [in Melbourne], then I went to America to finish it off there."
“The whole plan was to play the last three-to-four Challengers of the year and I actually built up and got ready to play them, but right when I was ready to play I injured my rib,” Harris said.
“I didn’t think much of it. I thought I just tweaked my ribs or whatever and took a week off. I tried to play again but it was painful, so I came home and got a scan and it was a rib stress fracture. I can’t really take a trick right now,” Harris admitted.
This latest setback was the final nail in the coffin for Harris' 2021 season.
“Now it’s just like - is my body ever going to be healthy and fit? I don’t know but I really hope so because I love playing tennis and I want to keep playing. I’m doing everything I can to be healthy. I do realise how much I love tennis and how much I want to be playing,” Harris said.
Fellow Australian World No. 49 James Duckworth has suffered his fair share of injuries throughout his career and is someone Harris can take inspiration from in his career resurgence.
“Ducks has obviously been through the ringer. I think that’s a good example of someone who’s really stuck at it and been resilient and come out the other side successfully. Hopefully, I can get a clean run at it for a few years and really give it a hot crack and see what happens. If you make it you make it. I just want to have the opportunity to fulfil the goals that I have for myself,” said Harris.
Working in overdrive, Harris has ensured he will be able to put his latest injury woe behind him in order to contest qualifying for his home slam.
“It’s recovering pretty well now. I'll be ready to go for Australian Open qualifying. I've been ramping up my training in the last couple of weeks but I’m not going to be quite ready to do a lead-in [tournament],” Harris conceded.
“I do wish I could play a lead-in event. Everyone’s here now for the Aussie summer and I just want to be a part of it.”
Despite it being his first tournament in nearly 12 months, Harris isn’t just contesting qualifying to fill the numbers. He is determined to do well.
“I've got pretty high expectations of myself; I’m pretty unreasonable on myself sometimes. I’m preparing to play qualifying which will be my first match in a year after a serious rib injury and not ideal preparation, but I’m not going there to fill numbers, I still expect myself to do well,” Harris stated.
Nearing his return to the tour, Harris' only goal for the year is to stay healthy, and trust that with that, the rest will fall into place.
“The goal is always to stay healthy for me because I know if my body stays healthy I can do good things in tennis,” Harris said.
“I’m just excited to play again. I’ve just got to take a moment when I’m out on the court to go, this is awesome. It's been a long time since I've played so I just want to go out there and enjoy competing again, which is something I haven’t done in a while,” the 27-year-old admitted.
Following the Australian summer of tennis, Harris plans to make his way back up the ATP Rankings by tackling the Challenger Tour.
“I was looking at the Challenger schedule and there’s not a whole lot on after the Australian Open in terms of a great schedule. I was thinking of starting in February in India where there are a couple of Challengers on.”
“There’s a European schedule, but the start of the year in Europe - they’re always absurdly strong draws. I've got a protected but you’ve only got nine events to use and I can’t be too wasteful with them, I have to pick my tournaments,” Harris explained.
“At this stage, I’m leaning towards going to India for two Challengers in February and then see the rest of the schedule when it releases and go from there.”