Ryan Harrison: Will the American Make a Breakthrough This Summer?

Van Sias@@Van_SiasContributor IIIJuly 31, 2013

Jul 30, 2013; Washington, D.C., USA; Ryan Harrison (USA) signs autographs for fans after defeating Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) in straight sets during the Citi Open at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a semifinal appearance at the BB&T Open in Atlanta last week, Ryan Harrison followed that impressive run with a first-round win over future Hall of Famer Lleyton Hewitt at the ATP World Tour 500 event in Washington.

Next up for Harrison is a match against top seed and world No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro, as difficult an assignment as it gets.

Regardless of the outcome, can Harrison use the match as a springboard to even bigger thingsperhaps a career-high ranking or first tournament final?

It appears that Harrison is finding some form that has eluded him for much of 2013, with four wins so far in his last five matches. An indicator of that is beating Hewitt in straight sets, even though the Australian is far removed from his days as the world No. 1.

That happens to be one of the best wins Harrison has notched in his career, and a win against del Potro would have to hold the top spot as far as achievements go.

And it's not too far-fetched to believe that he could pull the upset.

After all, Harrison has seen more Tour activity the past few weeks than the Argentine has, and del Potro could be susceptible to a little rust having set in. Plus, the American has demonstrated in the past that he's at his best on hard courts.

Then again, del Potro is a former U.S. Open champion and has been rightly hailed as one of the torch-bearers in the game.

If Harrison doesn't notch the upset, he would do well to take heart that there's no shame at losing to del Potro. If anything, the on-court experience could be a lesson in seeing what he needs to do to get to the next levels in his development, such as reaching that first singles final or perhaps cracking the top 30.

He's already been pegged to do that for a few years now, even though he's only 21. This could be his summer to make those goals a reality.