Update: Michael Russell Calls Lleyton Hewitt a “Racist” and “Douche Bag”
(July 14, 2013) After his semifinal loss to Nicolas Mahut at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, RI on Sunday, American Michael Russell kept his eyes on center court. Due to rain delays on Saturday, both singles semifinals and the final were forced to be played back to back the following day on adjacent courts.
After winning their respective semifinals, Lleyton Hewitt took the court against Mahut to battle for the grass court title at 2:30pm on Sunday. After serving for the match, up 7-5, 5-4, Hewitt ended up losing the set and the match, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 to the Frenchman.
Afterward, Russell unexpectedly took to his personal Facebook page for an aggressive rant and name-calling session against the Aussie, calling him a “douche bag and a racist.”
The “side court 1” comment is in reference to both semifinals being played side-by-side simultaneously, where Hewitt versus John Isner was on center court, and Russell versus Mahut was on court 1.
Though Russell somewhat explains what he meant by the “douche bag” comment, there was nothing to allude to the “racist” comment whether on Facebook or during the week’s happenings in Newport.
However, this isn’t the first time Hewitt has been called a racist.
During a second round match between Hewitt and James Blake at the 2001 US Open, Hewitt was called for two foot faults in the fourth set. The line judge happened to be black, and during a changeover, Hewitt had a conversation with the chair umpire regarding what many perceived to be a race issue.
“I’m only being foot-faulted on one end … Look at him, look at him and you tell me what the similarity is,” said a heated Hewitt on court.
When questioned in his post-match press conference about seemingly comparing the umpire’s and Blake’s skin color as the reason for his outburst, Hewitt firmly denied it was a race issue. “No, I didn’t say that to the umpire.”
“It was a conversation with me and the umpire,” Hewitt continued. “I come from a multi-cultured country, I’m not racial at all … There was nothing racial said out there at all. If people took it in the wrong way, then I apologize because it wasn’t meant to be in that way.” Blake publicly gave him the benefit of the doubt “because it’s in competition.”
However, the stigma stuck and the Aussie received continued backlash — one that seems to have extended to present day with Russell’s comments some 12 years later. The strange thing is though, Hewitt went on to defeat Albert Portas, Tommy Haas, Andy Roddick, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Pete Sampras to win his first Slam, the 2001 US Open.
UPDATE: Michael Russell went on Facebook and Twitter late Sunday to debunk it was him posting these comments to his Facebook account, instead claiming it was his “publicist.” However, while saying he “NEVER posts directly on Facebook” but “ONLY” uses Twitter linked to his Facebook account, the first post below is clearly in opposition to that statement. Moreover, as seen in the screencap above, the person apparently posting in Russell’s stead commented that “I have been on tour for over 15 years.” Now, why would a publicist state that if indeed it was the publicist? Furthermore, Russell’s wife Lilly “liked” several of the comments within the now-deleted rant.
Regardless of what happened here or who is to blame, it was not a smart move for a guy generally well-liked on the Tour, and one who has been quite outspoken about the need of restructuring the ATP.
(h/t to @prashantsport on Hewitt video)