Ryan Harrison has described his relationship with Donald Young as almost irreparable after his fellow American made accusations of racism at last week’s New York Open.
Young had alleged that he was on the receiving end of a racial slur from fellow American Harrison during the pair’s first-round match in New York, which Harrison won in straight sets.
Harrison vehemently denied the accusation and said he has since received threats on social media directed towards his family.
The ATP cleared Harrison of wrongdoing after reviewing match footage and interviewing officials, saying in a statement: “Unfortunately, the audio recording on the match footage did not pick up verbal exchanges between the players. At this time no evidence has been found to support the allegation that Ryan Harrison used a racial slur during the match.”
Harrison appeared on Sports Illustrated’s Beyond the Baseline podcast to discuss the incident with Jon Wertheim.
This has been one of the most difficult weeks of my professional life, such an allegation can be career changing, however I am grateful for the outpouring of support from my family, friends and fans.
— Ryan Harrison (@ryanharrison92) February 19, 2018
“It would be tough (to repair the relationship). I would appreciate (an apology) because at that point it clears up a lot of the speculation (about what was said),” Harrison said.
“Now what I want more than anything is 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.
“I’m not someone who tries to carry things on or hate people forever. I don’t see a way in which Donald and I would be able to move past it in a positive light. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to try and engage in personal activity with him outside tennis. I see it as being something where I’ll just try to avoid conversation and the situation with him where we have to be in conversation.
“And if we happen to play again, I’ll compete as hard as I can and do everything I can to win.”
Harrison took umbrage with the fact that Young used Twitter to accuse Harrison of racism, rather than going through official channels to resolve the incident.
I’m shocked and disappointed, Ryan Harrison, to hear you tell me how you really feel about me as a black tennis player in the middle of our NY match. I thought this was supposed to be an inclusive gentleman’s sport.
— Donald Young Jr (@Yimlife1313) February 13, 2018
The accusations made by Donald Young tonight following our match are absolutely untrue. I’m extremely disappointed that someone would say this in reaction to a lost tennis match. Any video/audio will 100% clear me and I encourage anyone with the available resources to find it.
— Ryan Harrison (@ryanharrison92) February 13, 2018
Harrison said that accusation – which he strongly denied via his own Twitter post shortly after – had seen him tried in the court of public opinion.
“The last week’s been tough. Especially the first few nights afterwards. Social media was not kind – it was everything from attacks on me personally to death threats to threats on my family and shots at my character,” he said.
“It was a very helpless feeling, knowing I hadn’t said what I was accused of saying, and I was in no way in a position to defend myself.
“I think people are really quick to condemn somebody as guilty before understanding what the facts are. Which is exactly why I believe the allegation picked up so much traction, and that now I’m cleared, everyone doesn’t really care or want to talk about it.
“That doesn’t mean that me and my family haven’t had a week that was probably the worst week, if not the worst week, of my professional life.”
Unlike Harrison, Young has not posted on Twitter since that accusatory tweet.
And he has not spoken about the incident, declining to be interviewed for a New York Times piece covering the incident and declining Wertheim’s invitation to appear on the Beyond the Baseline podcast to give his side of the story.
Donald Young declined to talk after his doubles match at the NY Open. We asked if he wanted to talk and he politely said, “I’m good.”
— David Waldstein (@DavidWaldstein) February 14, 2018
Harrison believed that Young, who trails 2-6 in their head-to-head series, took their matches especially personally.
“I have a very long history with Donald of 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,” Harrison said.
“Donald called me out on Twitter eight years ago whenever I got selected on the (US) Davis Cup team for the first time. It didn’t sit well with him.
“Donald, in my belief knowing that there was going to be no shred of evidence that could validate what he said (at the New York Open), took to social media to try and smear my name and basically assassinate my image. Just to try to get back at me for what’s been a series of tough matches against me.
“We’ve looked into (legal action for defamation). I don’t know exactly what route we’re going to go. I want to do things correctly.”
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