Who is Michael Russell? Even most diehard tennis fans may not be familiar with the veteran American player who advanced into his first ever ATP tour quarterfinals at the SAP Open today with a 6-4, 7-5 win over another veteran, Belgian Xavier Malisse.
Known as “Wheels” on tour due to his never say die attitude on court, Russell, once a top-ranked junior and NCAA player has found most of his success in Challenger events where last year he won three titles. Currently ranked #78, his last big stage match was at this year’s Australian Open where he lost in the first round to Juan Martin del Potro.
At 31, Russell is the oldest playing American on the tour and even though he may not have received the attention of Andy Roddick or James Blake, it’s definitely admirable to see someone grind it on the tour for so long. As Russell said after his win today, “I work hard, I love the game and I always check my ego at the door, and if I’m playing a Future, Challenger or ATP event I always feel the same out there.”
Russell will next face Sam Querrey who many think could be the next American No.1. But at least this week, Russell deserves to share in the spotlight with his younger and more well-known compatriots.
For more about Russell, click on his ATP profile here.
2 responses to “Michael Russell “Wheels” Into SAP Open Quarters.”
My son worked as a Ball Kid for this match and his fellow Ball Kids said that Russell was unfailingly polite to them: proof that he checks his ego at the door. In contrast, Malisse chose one Ball Kid who was doing a perfectly good job (not my son) to take his frustration out on–throwing the balls back to him and at the same time taunting the Ball Kid by asking why he wasn’t providing balls. At one point, I heard Malisse say something like, “How old is he? He looks like he’s 10 years old! He should be sucking on a pacifier!”. It would be amusing, except that the Ball Kids aren’t allowed to speak to the pros, so Malisse is harassing a young tennis player and admirer who has spent several hours training so that he can quickly and efficiently hand people like Malisse their balls and sweaty towels for an day–unpaid. True sign of a jerk.
Thanks for posting and I’m glad your son is able to take part in the tournament even though, at times, he has to see the bad behavior of tennis pros. Speaking of Russsell, I found this great profile of him written a few years ago that details his long struggles on the tour.