Ryan Harrison is known for a lot of things: being a junior prodigy, winning the 2017 French Open doubles title, reaching a ranking of No. 40 in the world, and helping the U.S. reach the Davis Cup semifinals in 2018. But one less headline-making feat he also does really well is handle the online trolls.
"I don't really look at them, to be honest with you," he said. "When they come out, I feel like engagement with those sorts of interactions kind of promotes people to think that there may be getting to you."
As far as Instagram accounts go, the 27-year-old gets some of the most hate you'll see in a comments section. No post is safe, be it an action shot, a post-surgery snap or a birthday photo. In 2019, he dealt with an elbow injury which led to a 3-7 record and knocked him down the rankings to the 400s.
Happy to say that after many months of fighting through a torn extensor tendon I am finally on the road to recovery. Most of this year was spent trying various different treatment options. We ultimately decided to have the procedure to fix the issue for good. Although 2019 was a very difficult year, I’m looking forward to the fight back and opportunity to come back stronger. There’s no shortage of obstacles while trying to achieve your dreams, and this will be a small bump in the road as I look forward to coming back better and stronger. The surgery went extremely well, and a full recovery is anticipated within 4-6 months. Id like to thank the @hspecialsurgery for their incredible care and @jdinesmd for his incredible work and friendship. Thank you all for your continued support
While dealing with injury setbacks and inconsistent results, the American also faced intense online hate. Instead of clearing the outrageously horrid comments, Harrison takes the high road with his 20,000-plus following.
"My biggest reason for not taking them down instantly, or going through and cleaning that out, is because I don't really engage it and I don't really entertain it," he said.
There's no real solution for the online hate players receive, and there's a lot of it out there. Madison Keys, Nicole Gibbs and Dustin Brown are some of the more vocal players calling attention to the problem, but aside from blocking and deleting, not much can be done.
"A lot of people struggle with it and I can understand why, because we're in an individual sport and it's hard when you don't have a ton of team around you to rely on, to pick you up and talk about things," Harrison said.
The only good news of the coronavirus pandemic suspension of the tours is that gambling pundits (who make up most of the online trolls) can't lose any more money without any live tennis, and thus won't take to player accounts to spread their unhappiness.
But tennis will be back, and so will the haters, and Harrison will continue to push a positive agenda during his comeback.
"You have fans and you have people who don't like you," he said. "And I think that it's really important to cherish your people who you're supported by and that are looking up to you. Try to do your best to make a good example, but I think the part of being that good example is also showing how to deal with backlash and how to deal with people who are, for whatever reason, just have a hateful, hateful mindset."
The hate wasn't always following him like a dark cloud. As a teenager, Harrison was one of the most supported young players in the world.
"When I broke in the Top 10 [of juniors] as a teenager, there was a lot of positive things being said about me," he said. "You kind of get excited about reading at that point because it's just all positive."
But Harrison's 12 years on tour (he turned pro at 15), have been far from an uphill road.
"Around 21, 22 years old, I had a ranking drop and the ranking drop was a really big eye opener for me for a number of reasons," he said. "But when it pertains to this, that's the first time that you see people who were on your side, it might've been fair-weather or people who were writing positive things about you, are now coming down on you.
"And when you're Google searching your name, you're seeing negative and really bad thoughts that you don't really want to be reading about yourself."
Harrison had to learn a lot about himself during that stretch, on and off the court, in order to keep his dream alive and moving in the right direction. He's doing it again after his 2019 setback.
"That period of my life was tough because I had to try and figure out, at 21, 22, 23 years old, how I was going to turn my career back around into a positive direction where the later stages of my career could be more successful than the early stages," he said.
It's a shame he won't have a chance to continue his comeback until at least July. He came back to the tour in January, and got his first ATP win in over six months in Delray Beach. At least it looks like Harrison is ready to face whatever comes next, online or on the court.
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