Michael Russel

My First Blog For TennisGrandstand

Hello everyone and welcome to my new blog here at TennisGrandstand.com.  I’d like to talk about a couple different items this week and that is the American Challenger Circuit and Off Season training for College Tennis.

Firstly, I’d like to point out that American Robert Kendrick continues to show week in and week out that he is knocking on the door of joining some of the other elite Americans in the top 50.  With a 1 and 1 dismantling of extremely talented Donald Young, in the Louisville, KT, $50,000 Challenger, Robert jumped to 91 in the ATP Race and should secure a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open.

Other Americans looking to make a run in the upcoming Fall Challengers are Amer Delic, Jesse Levine, Donald Young, Michael Russell and Bobby Reynolds.  New comer to the “hot players to watch” group is Brendan Evans who is in Europe, trying to test his big serve and aggressive game in the indoor circuit.

As the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Men’s Tennis Team at George Washington University, I have been having the boys put in some solid work over the last 10 days. The goal is to lay a good foundation of power, strength, agility, flexibility, and endurance over the next couple of months.  Luckily I have Alex Parr, one of the head trainers at GW watching over the boys and implementing the workouts that I generate using www.pegasustrainer.com .  I am having a blast with these boys and am looking forward to the spring season.

Paul Pisani has trained many of the top American tennis players today; including Ginepri, Delic, Harkleroad, and Kendrick.  Currently he is the Strength Coach for the GW University and has worked with Pepperdine and Princeton and owns and operates Tennis Fitness Solutions.

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Saying “#*!& You!” To A Chair Umpire And Other Summer Tennis Tales

The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun.  The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly.  I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.

One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s.  They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .

Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again.  All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me.  I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller.  He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany.  We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to  the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.

Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy.  I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city.  The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful.  The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge.  One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down.  Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day.  I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.

Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days.  Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin.  I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…