In the aftermath of the well-publicized confrontation with Donald Young last week, American Ryan Harrison went on Jon Wertheim’s SI/Tennis Channel podcast Tuesday.
He talked extensively about the situation, the political climate, his competitive personality and Young.
The 25-year-old has not ruled out taking legal action against his 28-year-old countryman for accusing him of making a racial remark towards him in the heat of their first-round match at the New York Open.
After investigating the situation for several days, the ATP came out with a statement on Friday stating it had found no evidence Harrison had said it.
Wertheim asked Young to come on as well. Young declined, as he has declined every request to speak about it since the incident occurred.
There’s no conclusion to be drawn from that either way, only that Young doesn’t want to talk about it right now. But it has given Harrison a platform to plead his own case, unrebutted, over the last week.
Here’s the entire podcast.
Long-term reputation damage
“When you look at the damages that have potentially come out all of this, the taint on my name for the rest of my career. … The majority of people know the allegations. The majority don’t know that the ATP cleared it. I’m going to have to probably be answering questions about this for the rest of my career,” Harrison said.
He said he has looked into potential legal action, but hasn’t made a final decision on that.
“I don’t know exactly what route we’re going to go. But I want to do things correctly. I want to make sure that I’m not just blowing smoke for the sake of doing it. But I know the defamation that I faced. And I know that this is in every way, shape or form a defamation case. And I have a very strong case, considering we have so many witnesses, so any people adamantly saying they didn’t hear it,” he said.
“With that being said, when you speak to lawyers and you understand the legal side of it , there has to be a concrete case. And I think that there is. And we need to discuss how to move forward.”
It’s always been personal
The history between Young and Harrison is a long one. And on the court, it’s been a fairly one-sided one, with the younger Harrison holding a 6-2 career record over Young.
Harrison feels the frustration of that head-to-head played a part.
“I have a very long history with Donald in competitive matches. But we’ve never had a competitive match that didn’t have that sort of personal feel to it. I think that started at a young age. Donald called me out on Twitter eight years ago when I got selected on the Davis Cup team for the first time, and it didn’t sit well with him,” he said.
“As of late, quite a few matches I’ve been able to win. Donald just decided to take this, and use this as an opportunity to try and find a way to take a shot at my character. And that is a total lack of humane thing to do. When you do that, you understand what the possible fallout is for me.”
Harrison said there were plenty of witnesses who came forward during the ATP’s investigation of the incident who not only said they didn’t hear the alleged racial remark, but “extremely adamantly said that there’s no way they could have missed it.
“In my opinion, I would have faced a suspension of some sort, and undoubtedly a fine. All it would have taken is one witness to come forward and verify that it’s been said for me to be absolutely guilty of this. I have six – seven including the chair umpire – that have written statements all verifying the exact same thing. I think that’s enough grounds to make sure he faces at least a heavy fine, if not a suspension.
“What I want more than anything that someone who can just flat-out lie and make something up like that to face the repercussions. An apology would be a start. We’d have to see after that. There is zero doubt in my mind that this was 100 per cent lying on his part. I know for a fact, in my own mind, that he made this up.”
Harrison talks about a lot of other issues – his politics and how that can lead to all-out attack on social media. He talks about how he is as a competitor, admitting that things can sometimes get personal with his opponent.
And he encouraged anyone who questions his character not to go after him on Twitter, but come up to him face to face and say hello. “I think the way I handle myself and treat people will speak for itself,” he said.
Silence from Young
In the meantime, Young has remained silent.
You know that Young has heard many slurs of a racial nature during his career. It would be absolutely naive to think he hasn’t. That’s not only the usual social media garbage, but during tennis matches as well. That he has rarely spoken publicly about it doesn’t make that any less true.
Two years ago, Russian Daniil Medvedev was defaulted from a match against Young for implying the that the African-American chair umpire and Young were “friends”, and thus biased against him.
In that case, though, despite it being a lower-level Challenger, there was clear audio from courtside that was nonexistent at the ATP-level match on Long Island.
Same time, same place for the next month
The two are both at the Delray Beach Open this week, although fairly far apart in the singles draw. They’ll also be in Acapulco, and Indian Wells, and Miami.
Harrison lost his first-round match in Delray Tuesday in two tiebreaks to big-serving young American Reilly Opelka. Young defeated qualifier Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-1, 6-2.
There will be plenty of opportunities for them to go somewhere and clear the air, assuming there is willingness on both sides.
From the looks of it, though, that doesn’t seem too likely.