September 22, 2023

Open Court


It has been 24 hours since the on-court confrontation during the first-round match between Americans Ryan Harrison and Donald Young at the New York Open Monday night.

Harrison won the match. The handshake was no more than a brush of the fingers on Young’s part. But there was a handshake.

But so far, only one of the two players has had his say publicly.

Harrison posted a 7-5, 6-3 win in his first-round doubles match with partner Steve Johnson Tuesday.

And after that, the 25-year-old spoke to what appeared to be two accredited media at the tournament about what he said, and didn’t say, during the contentious encounter.

Young sent a message on Twitter a few hours after the match Monday night, intimating that Harrison’s comments were of a racial nature.

Harrison responded via Twitter.

Video evidence inconclusive

As it turns out, the video quality of the streaming on this ATP Tour 250-level match wasn’t much better than a Futures match.

Even watching it live, and backing it up over and over again to try to hear something, was an exercise in futility.

It appears the authorities didn’t have access to anything of better quality.

But the ATP put out a statement saying it is investigating the matter.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Harrison, Young and ATP supervisor Tom Barnes met about a half-hour after the match, where Harrison learned what Young was alleging. 

“I was totally shocked. I begged him to find a tape of the broadcast. And I said I would sign a document right there on the spot saying I would accept a three-month suspension, without appealing, if it’s true,” Harrison told the Times. “I am very passionate on the court. And I know there are times when I have been wrong. But this is not one of those times. That is why I wanted them to listen to the audio, because I know there is nothing like that on there.”

The only words that were decipherable, from Harrison’s side, were after he sat down upon winning the first set, and Young went off for a bathroom break.

Harrison sat there, shook his head and said, “Every time. Every time.”

Monday night pow-wow

After his doubles match Tuesday, Harrison reiterated his innocence.

“The allegations are just not true. I’m disappointed that Donald said that I did. It’s saddening, because I’ve known him for a long time. I know what I said, I know that I didn’t say … that.  I would never say something like that because it’s just not in my makeup of who I am,” Harrison said. 

“With the disappointing fact that we haven’t found audio. I was really hoping that would come through for me so I didn’t have to have any speculation out there.”

Harrison said that the chair umpire, the ballkids and anyone else who witnessed the exchanges were asked about what they heard. And he said they did “nothing but confirm that they didn’t hear anything like that.”

“All I can tell you is I don’t know why he said that. I know for a fact, with 100 per cent clarity, that I didn’t say it. This isn’t an incident that I have a cloudy or vague memory of. I remember, word for word. It’s why I was so adamant about a video or an audio coming clean, because I knew I was 100 per cent in the clear there,” he added.

A second fellow asked him, if he didn’t say that, what did he say?

Harrison was not specific. 

“We were going back and forth about the match, in a bit of a trash-talking way. We were talking about previous matches. It wasn’t all nice words between each other. We were definitely talking bit of trash to each other. But it was in no way a racial comment. It was all about tennis and matches and that particular match that we were in,” Harrison said.

So, why would Young state otherwise?

“It’s just one of those things that I don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate on it. I try to respect everybody. I try to respect all my opponents,” Harrison said. “Donald, myself and the supervisors met last night and I told him in that conversation – even after some of the things that he was saying – that I have respect for him. I still have respect for him.”

Only one side, so far

Young did not have a match Tuesday; he plays doubles Wednesday. And no one requested an interview with him through the ATP, although we have learned that one reporter did attempt to contact him through his agent.

The Times reported Young was “unavailable for comment” Tuesday.

He might have been found – on a practice court, or perhaps at the adjacent player hotel.

But it appears he was not willing to talk anyway – at least not on Tuesday.

Harrison told the Times he had crossed paths with Young at the hotel Tuesday, but said that they did not speak.

Two fiery competitors

Both Harrison and Young have had their hot-headed moments – particularly earlier in their careers, although not exclusively.

Young’s outbursts sometimes have been directed towards in the direction of the US Tennis Association, with which he’s had an up-and-down relationship dating all the way back to when he was the No. 1 junior in the world.

For Harrison, there have been wholly inappropriate on-court remarks, on several occasions. He seems to be a competitor who needs someone or something to be angry with, to fuel himself to play his best.

As it is, Harrison has jumped ahead of the damage-control curve Tuesday regarding this incident, which is an uncomfortable “he said, he said” situation.

It’s definitely not the kind of publicity the New York Open was looking for, in its first year in a new city.

Perhaps more will be learned Wednesday, after Young returns to the court.

(NASA-quality screenshots from TennisTV. Video from Tennis Atlantic)

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