American veteran Michael Russell will turn 35 in May and one of the few men of that age still in the top 100 in singles. A bulldog of a player who came on tour primarily as a counter-puncher, over recent years he has forced himself to come forward more often as he isn’t quick as he once was and it doesn’t benefit him to be constantly drawn into long rallies.
Currently ranked No. 86, Russell is hoping the end 2013 in the top 100 and continue to make a sold living in the sport. He doesn’t play much doubles, but he has earned almost $1.9 million in a career where he has never cracked the top 50, which is his primary goal this year.
“That would be fantastic” he said.
Russell is wowed by no. 1 Novak Djokovic, whom he says has taken the game to new heights.
“Novak kind of plays like Andre [Agassi], dictating points and you feel like you have no breathing room, but at same time he serves better than Andre did,” Russell said at San Jose SAP Open. “But his return is by far the best. He cracks winner off first serves. I was talking to Ryan Harrison’s coach about his match against Novak at the Australian Open and Ryan served close to 70 percent of his first serves and Novak won 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. He’s hitting 110 MPH returns . I think Novak is at a different level than Murray, Federer and Rafa. The scary thing with Novak is he actually has room to improve. He has so many opportunities to come to net and transition, but he’s so good from the ground and at moving he’s content to nail it to one corner, have it floated back, let it bounce and then nail it to another corner. He could finish points faster, but I’m not going not going to tell him that,” he ended with a laugh.
There may or may not be any young players who are capable of toppling tennis’ Big 4 at this point, but Russell will play one of promising youngsters in San Jose: world No. 13 Milos Raonic, who just turned 22. But he’s more intrigued watching the more flavorful game of Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
“He’s a like a Federer junior,” Russell said. “It’s just a matter of time he puts it together mentally. He has the flare, the serve and return and can create amazing shots. Raonic has a bright future, he’s like an Ivo Karlovic with big serve and forehand. Ryan Harrison can play well, but he has to play more aggressive off the ground. He has great first and second serves. Bernard Tomic is so unusual with his slices and off pace shots. He has such good court sense and you don’t see with young guys too often.”
©Daily Tennis News Wire