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Monday, Nov. 5, 2018

Sportsperson of the Year

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Tennis pro Ryan Harrison represents Shreveport

Shreveport’s Ryan Harrison is recognized by his peers as one of the world’s best professional tennis players.

Now, Harrison is being recognized by his hometown.

The 26-year-old has been chosen the 2018 Walk-On’s Independence Bowl “Carl Mikovich Sportsperson of the Year.”

“It’s an amazing feeling to be given this award, and I am so honored to join this incredible list of past winners,” Harrison told 318 Forum from Paris, France, where he was playing in a tournament. “As a professional tennis player, we are on the road pretty much all year, and I think about my time growing up in Shreveport. I wish there was a professional tournament there like the bowl game so I could make it back home every year.”

As of this writing, Harrison is the seventh-ranked American — and the 59th-ranked player overall — by the Association of Tennis Professionals.

“To have somebody like that from Shreveport — that’s a remarkable feat,” said Trey Giglio, chairman of the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl. “I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody from this region accomplish what he has accomplished in the world of tennis.”

Harrison, who now lives in Austin, Texas, went to Eden Gardens Elementary School in Shreveport. Harrison was also homeschooled and studied online so he could focus on tennis. He played in the Shreveport City Championships when he was 11 years old and made it to the finals. He didn’t lose to another pre-teen – he lost to his father, Pat. Pat was a local tennis professional who played in college at Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. When Ryan was 12, he and his family moved away so Ryan could pursue tennis at a higher level.

Harrison has won more than $4 million in a pro career that began when he was just 15 years old. That is when Harrison won in the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships and became only the 10th player in ATP Tour history to win a match before turning 16.

In 2011, when Harrison was 19 years old, he broke into the ATP Top 100 for the first time. That, after reaching the semi-finals of the Atlanta Tennis Championships. In 2012, Harrison represented the United States at the Summer Olympics in London.

“One of my favorite memories in my career so far has been representing USA in Davis Cup and the 2012 Olympics,” Harrison said. “On top of representing USA, I love to also represent Shreveport. I would like to one day play a professional tennis tournament there. I think it is very important for everyone to remember where they started and how they got their start. For me, it all started in Shreveport, and I will always remember how lucky and fortunate I am that my father played this great sport and helped put me and my siblings in a position to carry out our dreams.”

Before turning professional, Harrison played in his first junior Grand Slam tournament at the 2007 U.S. Open. By 2008, he was the top-ranked American junior tennis player. It was that success which launched him into what has turned out to be a very impressive pro career.

“Ryan represents our local community on the world stage as a tennis player,” Giglio said. “Anytime he is successful, which is very often, he represents our community, our city, on the world stage. He represents us very well.”

The Independence Bowl “Awards Committee” considered several people to be named Sportsperson of the Year. There were nominations made by the public, as well as committee members. Harrison fit perfectly with the committee’s criteria.

“You look back at the mission of the Independence Bowl, and one of the core missions is economic development recognition for our region — for our community,” Giglio said. “By selecting those that have a tie to our community for this particular award, we are assisting in shedding light on our community and the great athletes we produce. And there is a long list of great athletes we produce in this region. It’s important that we highlight that because it is part of our mission.”

Harrison joins other well-known athletes and media members who have been named “Sportsman of the Year.” Professional golfers Hal Sutton and David Toms, former major league baseball player Todd Walker, and longtime television personality Bob Griffin have all been honored.

“If you look at our past recipients,” Giglio said, “we choose someone who has had great accomplishments in athletics — that’s in any athletics — and someone who has a tie to our local community. Those are the two main things that we are looking for.”

Harrison will not be in attendance at this year’s Independence Bowl. He will be in Australia, preparing for the first Grand Slam event of 2019. “If I could be there, I would be in a second,” Harrison said.

The award is named in honor of Carl Mikovich, the 1995 Independence Bowl chairman. From 1993-2003, Mikovich was president of Poulan-Weedeater, the bowl’s first title sponsor. Mikovich died in 2006.

To learn more about this year’s Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, you may visit www.walkonsindependencebowl.org.

– Tony Taglavore

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