We must regretfully inform you all that Ryan Harrison is a fibber. He is a manipulator of the truth. As they say in London, he is a purveyor of porky pies (that’s rhyming slang for lies). And, I am reliably informed, as they say round here: Mr Harrison was having a lend of us all when he announced that he was going to play it safe against Andy Murray.
The likeable 19-year-old from Shreveport, Louisiana, by way of Bradenton, Florida, had faced the quote-hungry British media on the eve of his first-round match and admitted he could not possibly afford to take any chances against the world No.4. Not if he wanted to stand a hope of winning, at any rate.
“I’m certainly not going to swing out of my shoes and try to play out of hand because I trust what I have got,” he had said solemnly. “I trust my game and believe if I bring my A-game and he brings his, you have to believe that you will come out on top.”
Yeah, right, Ryan. We believe you.
In the heat and tension of the Hisense Arena, young Harrison welted the ball for all he was worth to keep the Muzz on court for three hours and 12 minutes before Scotland’s finest was able to reach the second round 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2.
Harrison took risks, he took chances; he even tried trick shots – one flick down the line played with his back to Murray while running full pelt towards the backstop even had the motor-mouthed Brad Gilbert at a loss for words – but it was all to no avail. Murray was too good on Tuesday but that is not to say Harrison will not have his moment in the sun. And on the evidence of this performance, that moment will come sooner rather than later.
For a set, Murray was rocked back on his heels as Harrison set about him with bat and ball. His serve is good, his second serve is very good and his forehand ought to come with a government health warning. Trying to keep the ball away from that particular shot was proving just a touch problematic for the Muzz and within no time he was two breaks down and looking at a pasting. Harrison played a belting opening set.
"He came out playing great tennis, going for his shots and hitting big," Murray said. "This court is tough - there's very little shade. We had a few long rallies and he made me do a lot of running. I'll need to make sure in my next match that I play closer to the baseline.
"He [Harrison] is very good already and he's getting better. I started to play better towards the end. I had a few nerves early on. You want to play your best tennis towards the end of the tournament so that's what I'll try and do."
Throughout all of this, Ivan Lendl, old Stone Face himself, sat impassively at the side of the court. He teamed up with Murray on New Year’s Eve and has come to Melbourne to teach his new charge exactly how a bloke goes about winning a major title. And the first instruction appears to be ‘keep your cool’.
As a player, Lendl was not one for histrionics or emotion to the point that a raised eyebrow constituted a wild outpouring of the inner man. Now he is trying to teach the more emotional and expressive Murray to keep a poker face on court – and for a large chunk of the match, it seemed as if the effort was strangling poor old Muzz.
Many a member of Murray’s coaching team has come in for a tongue-lashing over the years. It is not that Muzz blames anyone but himself for his own on-court failings but when he wants to have a rant about the latest missed forehand or fluffed break point opportunity, he turns to the lads in his box and lets rip. The team just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and as much as it looks as if Murray is giving them hell, he is actually just giving himself an almighty dressing down. Even so, Old Stone Face is having none of that.
As the match wore on, so Murray bit his lip and said nothing. He looked nervy and tight in the first set and even when he got the second set under his belt, he did not relax. Instead of the howls and expletives, Murray’s frustrations were expressed through wincing. There was barely a bit of his body that he did not grab, massage or flex but, oddly, only when he had lost the point. Clearly, hitting a winner has the pain-killing power of a handful of aspirins.
But finally, after more than two hours, Murray exploded. Screaming at his shoes – shoes are fickle beasts and cannot be trusted when a chap is in the thick of battle – he let off a little steam. From afar, Lendl did not twitch so much as an eyelash. Muzz had got away with that one. Best not push his luck any further.
Sure enough, as Murray kept his focus and his temper and Harrison started to run out of puff – both mental and physical – a place in the second round against Edouard Roger-Vasselin opened up for the Scot. It had not been easy and it was not particularly pretty, but Muzz and Old Stone Face had survived their first test.