Tennis Prose



Tim Mayotte Discusses How Ryan Harrison Can Fix His Game

Tim Mayotte was a former ATP world #7 player in the 1980s and arguably the best player to ever come out of the United States New England section. A winner of 12 career ATP singles titles and a semifinalist at 1982 Wimbledon and 1983 Australian Open, Mayotte discusses his thoughts on young American Ryan Harrison and what needs to be worked on to take his game to the next level…

Question: What does Harrison need to do to take it to the next level and do you think he has the potential to reach the top 10? Mats Wilander said he thinks Harrison has the goods to be top 3 in the world.

Tim Mayotte: “I think Ryan has some technical issues that he needs to address, before he becomes great, particularly his backhand side. He can be vulnerable I think to a counterpunching type of backhand. Ultimately, the best players are going to break it down. So I think if he can address, not only the stroke, but also the way he addresses the ball, otherwise I think on most surfaces he’s not going to be able to exchange with players to get to a chance to be able to use his forehand.”

Question: You do sense he can become a great player though?

Tim Mayotte: “I think he’s got the competitiveness. He’s got the ability to win and certainly the ability to compete in big situations. He’s very comfortable in those kind of matches…he’s got that confidence in himself. He’s got good shot selection. He knows what he can and he can’t do. So all those elements I think are great. It’s a question of technical things and whether you know through his – I mean, obviously Roddick had a great career but there was that one big weakness with his backhand – it made it very difficult for him to stay in exchanges with the best players.”

Question: If you don’t mind my asking, what do you think Harrison can actually do to change his backhand? Isn’t he so set in his way by now?

Tim Mayotte: “No, no. I think that’s one of the great misconceptions about pros. Things are locked in place. I think we’re all aware of how, for instance, Nadal significantly changed his serve two weeks before the U.S. Open two or three years ago and also got a much better serve. And serve is more complicated than the backhand. Or, obviously, Federer is now flattening out the ball when he has to. Those are significant changes. But great players do that. Lendl developed his topspin backhand as his career went on. And his second serve. Great players adjust to get better. So I think that’s a big mistake to say.”

“But if you were to look at the lack of length and the lack of rotation in his backhand, it’s not creating nearly the amount of racquet head speed that he’s capable of. He’s clearly a good athlete. And I don’t think that would be that hard to fix. And integrating. It takes time but the actual technical improvements – for a kid that talented. He’s only 19. I don’t think it’s that difficult. His serve is excellent. All these things are in place. But that I think he can change. If he makes those adjustments I think he could be top 10.”

Tim Mayotte won the NCAA singles title in 1981 while playing at Stanford. He played on the ATP Tour from 1981-1992, achieving a career won/loss record of 340-203, including 12 singles titles. Mayotte defeated Connors in the final at Queens Club in London and also won the silver medal at the 1988 Olympics. His best results in majors were semis at Wimbledon and Australia and quarters at U.S. Open. Today he coaches various players in New York.


  • Steve · October 1, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Nadal totally changed his service motion after being a top player in the world so this is very doable. Sometimes I forget he’s only 19.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 1, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    He’s 20 and it seems like Mayotte was saying, No way this dude’s going to be top 3 or top 10. Harrison looks like he can play with the top guys, but he’s not shown he can come close to beating them. Yes, he can take out a Gilles Simon, but that’s about it. He’s got the athleticism and the bluster, but his game is spotty. And what is his real weapon? I don’t think the forehand is outstanding.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    I did get that slight sense also but these wizard pros like Mayotte and Wilander have a knack for spotting talent that us mere mortals can’t see. McEnroe predicted Hewitt would be top 10 by the end of the year when he was ranked around 30 as a teenager, Pancho Segura calling Rafter to win the US Open the year he did, etc. Eric Taino telling Michael Sell that Rios would be the futre ATP #1 in the world someday when they were at a US boys junior Open meeting (this story is in my Rios book). Don’t think it would be wise to count out Harrison yet, just like it wouldn’t have been wise to write off Spadea when he was in the midst of his horrendous losing streak of over 20 first rounds in a row. Smart players figure things out.

  • Steve · October 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    He seems to have a really strong work ethic and a large dose of self confidence. No reason why he can’t get to the top 10 esp. if he’s open to feedback & change.

  • Steve · October 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Lot’s of successful pros without a huge knockout weapon. Ferrer, Seppi etc. Obviously, fitness and speed are more subtle weapons.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Steve; Gilbert didn’t have a big weapon yet he had a remarkable career, reached #4 in the world. I think Harrison is one of those players who plays better than he looks on court, like BG. He’s smart and will figure a way to get to the top. But he’s losing 2-4 in the third to Lopez right now.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    The comparison to Spadea doesn’t work because when Spadea went through his losing streak, he’d already been a top-20 player so he knew he could play at that level. Harrison, although he’s only 20, has not yet shown he’s even top-40 level.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I think Harrison has played top 20 tennis already, here and there, he just has to be more consistent about it and of course solidify some areas. Remember after Vince lost to Querrey in Delray he told us that Q played top 20 tennis that match (Q was ranked about 50 at the time)? He certainly did fulfill that prophecy by Vince and did indeed reach the top 20. Q is actually about to reach the top 20 again very soon, he’s just outside it now.

  • Tom Michael · October 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Actually, Harrison hasn’t beaten Gilles Simon. So I can not say that he can take him out. Actually, Spadea can’t take out Simon either, and never did.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Agree Tom, I think Simon is a little too tough for Spadea, too solid, and his higher ranking proves it. Also think it will be a tough task for Harrison to overcome Simon on any surface. Simon is a very good and underrated player, just a notch below the top guns.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Please, Simon is not “just a notch” below the top players. Ferrer is just a notch, Berdych on good days, Tipsarevic maybe and Tsonga, but not Simon. If he were just a notch, the guy would’ve been in a slam semis by now. He hasn’t.

    Spadea on a good day would out-hit Simon. Spadea has much more force of shot. Spadea beat guys like Davydenko, Agassi, Kiefer, Kafelnikov, Safin, Grosjean, Haas, everyone of these guys is either a better or much better player than Simon.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Oh, I forgot, Santoro and Blake, too. Simon is like a modern-day Harold Soloman (sp?). He’s a retriever, a scary mirror for players who don’t have much firepower, but Spadea’s a guy who could beat guys like that off the ground. He had a match point against Chang USO 95 when Chang was No. 2. He beat Agassi/Kafelnikov in majors. You get my point, right?

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Simon has impressed me, he is a tough player. He has wins over top 4 players just like Spadea did but when you classify players to status it’s by ranking and Simon has achieved the significantly higher ranking than Spadea, which shows he is the superior player. Of course Vince could have beaten Simon, lower ranked players beat higher ranked players often, but I saw Simon is clearly the superior player to Vince and he has the achievement to show for it.

  • Dan markowitz · October 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    What are Simon’s wins in slams to match Vince’s. Who has he beat in slams? Agassi, Kafelnikov, Kraijcek, Davydenko, Albert Costa at French?

  • Julian Johnson · October 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Dan, don’t know if you peeped this:

    Gilles Simon-Vince Spadea 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
    French Open

    Gilles Simon-Vince Spadea 2-6 6-2 6-3 05

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 3, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks Julian. I did some more research…

    Simon 261-179 record, high rank of #6, 10 career titles, $6.46 million, age 27.

    Spadea 311-359, #18, 1 career title, $5.102 million.

    It’s not even arguable as to who is the better player. It’s no comparison. Gilles Simon. The total of titles and the disparity of overall won loss record is what hurts the Spadea argument.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 4, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Julian, you have to remember Vince was 30 and 32 when he played Simon those matches and Simon 20 and 22. Vince was in a bad tailspin when he lost to Simon in Cincy. Simon was a nobody then. But Vince had lost to Russell in Toronto qualis and he had to write this dang book called, Break Point,” that year and he said it was the reason his ranking went from No. 18 to 78.

    Look, Simon beat JMDP at the USO once, but I don’t think the guy has even ever made a slam quarters. Vince beat a lot of quality players in slams. I remember in his 30’s, he beat Bjorkman badly when Jonas was a seeded player. That’s how I judge players. Not by their rankings or how much money they made, but how did they do in slams. That shows the true quality of a player.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    You can’t ignore number of titles won Dan, that’s an important figure in evaluating a player. Simon wins tournaments and wins matches, that’s what it’s all about. hasn’t won any slams no but neither did Vince as far as I remember.

  • Tom Michael · October 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Simon made the 2009 Australian Open quarters. He has lifetime wins over the entire current top 10: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Berdych, Ferrer, Tipsarevic, Tsonga, Del Potro (at 2011 US Open 3rd round btw), and Almagro. With also wins against former top ten players like Haas, Soderling, Monfils, Roddick, Youzhny, Wawrinka, Davydenko, Moya, Stepanek,and Hewitt. And unlike Spadea, who has a few top ten wins himself, Simon also was a member of the top 10 and played the WTF in 2008, making the semis. And he has 10 titles in his career while Spadea has only 1. Simon is the superior player period. It is laughable how you Dan, reacted without any objective evidence.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    My evidence is thus: Simon–only top player ever beat in a slam that anyone has mentioned so far is Del Po. Spadea beat Agassi, Kafelnikov, Costa, Schuettler, Rusedski, Kraijcek, Bjorkman, Davydenko and Stepanek. You be the judge, who has the better slam resume?

  • Tom Michael · October 4, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Neither man has a great slam resume since neither man made past the quarters of one. Both made a quarter each, Spadea in 1999 AO and Simon in 2009 AO. Simon has made the 4th round or better of all four, while Spadea made the 3rd round or better of all four.

    I believe I know why Spadea had the upset wins in the majors that you praise him for, while Simon has not. First, top players take Simon very seriously, while Agassi mistakenly mistook Spadea for a journeyman. Therefore Agassi deservedly got the beating from Spadea. The top players also face Simon in the appropriate rounds, i.e. 3rd or 4th because his ranking is in the top 16-32 consistently. While Spadea was all over the place in his rankings, and he would face the top player in the early rounds so the upset could occur. The other reason for the early round upset by Spadea was that in Vince’s time, there was a 16 seed format. This format allowed upsets to occur. Now with the 32 seed format, the chance that Simon could ever upset a top player before the 3rd round is almost impossible. The 32 seed format may also be the reason Simon has made the 4th round or better of each slam, while Vince did not because he was in the era of 16 seeds. Vince would play to his ranking and lose in the 3rd round or earlier. But definitely credit to him for making one slam quarterfinal in a lifetime by playing above his ranking and seeding. Meanwhile, Simon who was top 10 in the world when he made the 2009 AO Quarters, played according to his seeding and ranking.

    Simon is a more consistent player than Spadea. He is at worst equal to Spadea in the slams. But better than Spadea everywhere else. Neither man is Hall of Fame caliber, but both are very good performers on the ATP tour.

  • Mitch · October 4, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Simon has slam wins over Berdych, Schuettler (not a really impressive scalp), Monfils, Cilic, and Fish. No top 5 wins, but they usually only lose to each other. Simon’s career isn’t over yet, and he’s lost opportunities to put up good results to injury.

  • Dan markowitz · October 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Most if not all of Vince’s big wins came early in his career. Pancho Segura told me that if Vince had beaten Chang in that big match in Open, his whole career would’ve changed. You don’t beat Agassi in 4 sets in 4th Round of a slam without having some serious game. Agassi knew how dangerous Vince was. Vince had beaten the year before at Cincy.

    Look, I admire Simon, but he’s basically a very fit pusher. If he had any firepower he would’ve beaten Fish this year at the Open. Fish was ready to be taken out, but Simon couldnt step up. Vince had serious firepower, a bigger game than Simon, but he never got really fit and he was a little nutty. But as a ball striker he’s superior to Simon.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    LOL Dan, Vince is not superior to Simon in any way! Even Vince’s backhand which is his bread and butter, is about equal to Simon’s. Agassi had his share of bad losses in slams, maybe the loss to Vince was one of them. I remember seeing it, Agassi must have been off that day. If Agassi is on his A game, he steamrolls Vince. Agree about Vince’s loss to Chang, that was devastating. To blow MPs…that really damaged Vince’s confidence, that was his breakout moment but he blew it. Chang was a tremendous fighter though.

  • Tom Michael · October 5, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Simon lost to Fish at this year’s Open because he was injured. I knew he was in the 1st round against Russell. I was there, and he had no explosiveness whatsoever. He could only hit 70 mph serves during the Open. It was just painful to watch. But he made the 3rd round on shere grit.

    Simon is not a pusher like you think he is. He is crafty, and has some of the best court sense in the game, comparable to Federer and Nalbandian. The problem is is that he is slight of build and does not have the supreme strength like the rest of the tour.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 5, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Simon is not a pusher is right. He is more of a backboard, he can hit all day, he has excellent form and technique and obviously some very special intangible qualities which have enabled him to beat the likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic and Murray among others. Despite his lack of physicality he is a very dangerous player. The TV commentators say that the way to beat him is to not give him power down the middle so as to make him generate his own pace and force him to create angles, which he supposedly is not comfortable. Simon is thinner and skinnier than most all the female players. He is the skinniest male player I have ever seen, his legs are like toothpicks. For him to be a top 10 player in the ATP with his physical shortcomings indicates he is a marvel of a talent and one extraordinary athlete. I have great appreciation for his success. Spadea was an admirable and very good player also, but he’s not in the same league as Simon.

  • Steve · October 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    How could I have missed this discussion on Simon. Simon is the 2nd best runner in the top 50. 2nd to only Ferrer. He’s also very good with tactics. Gasquet recently beat him solidly which tells you a lot about Gasquet and playing fellow countrymen.
    Simon can actually flatten out his backhand and crack it sometimes. With Simon it’s very clear what he does well. With Harrison he’s still shaping his game. Right now I see a very good 1st & 2nd serve, good hustle, drive and fearlessness as his main strengths.



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