- School: University of Oklahoma
- Year Graduated: 2017
- Current Job: ATP #204.
The Melbourne native has an extensive tennis resume. As a junior, he reached the number 6th spot in the ITF world junior ranking. He won two junior Grand Slams in doubles, 2012 Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
In college, he won multiple accolades, including 2014 ITA National Rookie of the Year, All Big 12 Team selections and All American Status. He capped his outstanding career by winning the 2017 NCAA Doubles Championship alongside teammate Spencer Papa. He also helped the Sooners reach three straight NCAA team finals (2014 – 2016).
Since restarting his professional career in 2017, Harris has won one Future and made three Challenger finals, reaching a career high of #159 in the world.
As you can tell, Harris has quite the extensive resume and we can all learn a bit from his experience. Let’s get to it!
7 Questions With Andrew Harris
#1 What was your recruiting/school selection process like?
I never had any plans of going to college during my junior tennis days. I played 3 of the 4 junior grand slams and got to #6 ITF. My plan was to go straight to the pros post juniors. However, after another long term back injury, I decided the college pathway would be a good option for me. I started replying to a few of the schools that had reached out to me on Facebook midway through my last year in juniors leading up to the US Open. After exchanging messages with the coaches I ended up narrowing my selection down to 3 schools- Oklahoma, Southern California, and Tennessee. I took my visits to these colleges in January 2013. I really loved University of Southern California a lot and could definitely see myself going there. I went back home after my visits and gave myself 2 weeks to digest it all and really have a hard think about which school would be best for me in terms of developing me into a successful pro player. That was the biggest factor for me in deterring which program would be best for me. The head coach and their philosophies were very important to me. After these 2 weeks and consulting a lot with my dad I decided to commit to the University of Oklahoma.
The Head coach at the time at Oklahoma was John Roddick and he really stood out to me. He was no fuss and didn’t try to sell me on anything, just told me straight up how it was and I respected that. We talked a lot about how he could transition me into the pros and was big on taking me to playing professional events in the fall instead of college tournaments and that stood out to me and appealed to me.
#2 What was your favorite moment/story/aspect of college?
I really loved the team aspect of college. Playing and training alongside a lot of really good friends made it really enjoyable and just playing for someone else other than yourself was a nice change. I think one of the best moments in my college career was my sophomore year when we went to Baylor and beat them at home with about 2,000 feral fans screaming and yelling out abuse during the point. There had just been a temporary rule change in the Big 12 where fans didn’t have to be silent during the point and could pretty much do anything they wanted. So Oklahoma and Baylor being the big rivals they were, Baylor did anything they could to get the biggest possible crowd. The match was something I had never experienced. Fans had looked up some of my teammates social media accounts and were yelling out really personal insults and getting really nasty. At certain stages of the match you could barely even here the sound of the ball being struck. However, our team competed really hard and we went on to clinch it 4-3 in a wild match. The moment that really stuck out to me was the celebrations in the locker-room after. John was so pumped he starting screaming so loud and throwing chairs with excitement. Both our seniors Dane Webb and Nick Papac were overcome with emotion and they were in tears. It still sticks out so vividly in my mind!
#3 How did college tennis prepare you for the rest of your career/life?
College tennis taught me a lot of disciplines that are very useful in life. Time management was a massive one. With the days being so chaotic with classes, training, and then study at night, being effective with your time was crucial. College also gave you a different perspective with all the study that you had to do. I did a business marketing degree and I think that degree will hold me in good stead once I finish my professional career. As much as studying was a grind at times, going to class and studying took your mind of tennis for a little bit so you didn’t become so consumed in tennis tennis tennis. I think when tennis is all you have it can sometimes become overwhelming if you start overthinking everything.
Lastly, the contacts you make throughout can also help you a lot down the track with jobs. You meet a lot of diverse people and many of them are wanting to see you succeed whether it be in tennis, or in business down the track.
#4 A lot of juniors and parents worry that tennis will suffer because of the academic demands of college. What advice would you give an 18-year old in terms of balancing academics and tennis?
I think you have to be mentally prepared to study. A lot of tennis players these days want to go to college and just want to play tennis and have fun and neglect the school part. However, there are so many different degrees to choose from and you can make it as hard or as easy as you would like. For me personally I wanted to do something I could use later down the track, but it required a fair bit of work. Some others choose other degrees where you can sort of breeze through it, so you kind of choose which path you want to go down.
Also as I mentioned above, time management is critical. I found myself never having much free time to go and do all the fun things I wanted to do. I had to save that for the weekend. Just be efficient with your time and always try and stay productive during the week!
#5 Another thing we see parents worrying about is how the social component of college will affect their kids tennis. What would you tell an 18-year old going to college in regards to having fun without compromising their tennis/academics?
My first thing I would say is you get what you put into it. If you go to college with professional ambitions and are disciplined and serious about wanting to make a career out of tennis post college then there will be no issues. Sure there are plenty of parties and bars to go out to. There is a time and a place for all of that. During the Fall where there are less tournaments and more training, you can afford to have more fun with friends and go out and have a good time. But during the season, it was pretty strict with partying and for me we only had a handful of times if 4 months where we could let our hair done. But it all comes back to the athlete. If they are serious about tennis they won’t let the partying consume them to the point where it becomes detrimental to their tennis.
#6 Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you were starting college again today?
Knowing what I know now with regards to academics, I probably could have done just as well without putting so much effort into studying. To me I felt like I had to read every bit of assigned reading and complete every single practice question or else I was not going to do well or I was going to be unprepared for exams. Looking back though, I definitely did far more than I needed to, to achieve the same result.
For tennis I wish I didn’t push so hard through some of my injuries. I missed almost 2 full seasons out of my 4 due to injury. During my sophomore year I had a niggling knee injury at the start of the season. I didn’t get on top of it at the time and it only got worse and worse. However I didn’t want to let the team down so I continued to push through it. It got so bad come NCAA time that I needed to get a pain killing injection in my butt each day to be able to play. I was then out for 10 months post NCAA tournament. If I had my time again I would have taken the necessary time off to get it right even if it meant the team not doing as well for a few weeks. I will say that it was my doing and I was not forced or pressured to play from my coaches.
#7 In your case, why did you think that college tennis was a good option as opposed to going directly to the pro tour?
I definitely don’t have any regrets from my time at college. The most valuable aspects were the ability to get a big number of matches in and gets you match hardened. You also get a lot of physical work done and come out fitter and stronger and ready for the tour. College tennis is all about competing too and seeing it as a team environment, you must give your best competitive effort every time you step on the court which holds you in good stead for the pros when you are only playing for yourself.
In terms of personal development, I came out of my 4 years of college far more mature. I had worked incredibly hard for my degree and I now had that in my back pocket, in case tennis went bad or I had a career ending injury. That definitely took pressure off myself on tour knowing I always had a fall back option. I also had a far more balanced perspective on life as a whole and understood that tennis is just a part of it. Its important to not get so so caught up in tennis where you think its almost life or death. One last thing to note is that you get to pick how long or how short you want your college life to be. If you think 2 years is long enough then you can leave early and go on the tour after that. Or if you feel you need the full 4 years to mature before going on tour, then that’s the freedom you get to make as a player.