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American Harrington maintains composure, advances in Mt. Lebanon tennis tournament

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By Andrew Erickson
Friday, July 4, 2014, 5:42 p.m.
 

Hunter Harrington almost lost Friday in the quarterfinals of the Men's Futures of Pittsburgh, but from his body language, it was impossible to tell.

Three rounds of singles tennis at Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center have brought plenty of racket throwing, spitting and audible self-criticism. Neutral body language like Harrington's has been a rare find.

Double faults, missed break opportunities and unforced errors are decidedly frustrating aspects of tennis. The Spartanburg, S.C., native and rising senior at Clemson experienced each Friday but said he doesn't let the little things bother him. He has been coached that way.

“Our coaches at Clemson, that's what they teach,” Harrington said. “They say, ‘Stay level. You're going to have highs and lows, and if you stay level, you're going to end up a lot better than the guy who's up and down a lot.' ”

In his match against Jorge Montero of Chile, there was plenty to be down about in the first set. Harrington stumbled out of the gate, failing to hold serve in the first game of the match. From there, Montero cruised to a 6-4 victory.

Harrington never dominated or looked completely in control of the match, but he played well when he needed to. He broke Montero just once in three sets, with Montero up 5-4 in the second and serving for the match.

His approach was simple: Just keep the play alive.

“Serving out a match is one of the toughest things to do,” Harrington said. “So I put a lot of balls in play that game, and I played really well in the tiebreakers.”

In the second-set tiebreaker, Harrington came from two points down to win 7-5. To close out the match, he didn't falter during several long rallies, earning a 7-3 tiebreaker victory. After admittedly struggling with tiebreakers during his first two tournaments of the summer Futures season, he said he welcomed the change.

Harrington also said he's enjoying his newfound success on clay. Like most college players, his last three years have been played almost exclusively on hard courts, which is what he prefers.

Clay courts tend to favor quicker, more agile players like Montero, who has played many of his recent tournaments on clay in South America. A 6-foot-4 frame and almost no clay court experience since high school normally would put Harrington at a disadvantage, but he has been an anomaly all tournament.

He's also just one of two Americans, along with Jean-Yves Aubone, to reach the semifinal round after 19 competed in the 32-player first round. On Saturday, Harrington will take on Toby Martin of Great Britian, who has yet to lose a set in three matches.

“It took a little getting used to in the beginning,” said Harrington of clay courts. “But I'm playing better now, and I just have to keep moving forward.”

Andrew Erickson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com.

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