Tag Archive: Michael Russell


A very long List today. Since a lot of players’ seasons have already been shuttered, those who did play last week stood to gain a lot vs. those dormant others. Thus, there’s a whole lotta career highs to get to today. So let’s get to them!

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Alejandro Gonzalez COL 24 91 CTF F
Oleksandr Nedovyesov UKR 26 93 CTF SF
Bradley Klahn USA 23 97 Yokohama SF
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 121 others lost points
Facundo Bagnis ARG 23 123 Lima F
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 124 Lima QF
Peter Polansky CAN 25 140 others lost points
Victor Estrella DOM 33 143 Guayaquil QF
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 151 Yokohama SF
Guilherme Clezar BRA 20 156 CTF RR
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 178 others lost points
Sam Groth AUS 26 183 Champaign F
Tennys Sandgren USA 22 187 Champaign W
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 189 others lost points
Pedro Sousa POR 25 199 Guayaquil F
Mohamed Safwat EGY 23 206 Egypt F32 W
Lorenzo Giustino ITA 22 232 others lost points
Axel Michon FRA 22 239 Egypt F32 F
Kimmer Coppejans BEL 19 254 Yokohama R2
Andrea Collarini ARG 21 257 Lima R2
Egor Gerasimov BLR 21 267 Helsinki QF
Hiroki Kondo JPN 31 275 Yokohama FQR
Adrian Sikora SVK 25 295 others lost points
Ante Pavic CRO 24 297 Helsinki R2
Janez Semrajc SLO 24 300 Croatia F14 F

So what do we make of this uber-long List?

Well, first of all, a hardy “Welcome to the Top 100!” is in order for Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez and American Bradley Klahn. Gonzalez, who lost to Filippo Volandri in the Challenger Tour Finals, is the sixth Colombian to ever break into the One Hundred Club.

AGon The Conqueror

AGon The Conqueror

Klahn, the three-time All-American out of Stanford, finishes his first full year on tour in superb form, going Finalist, Champion and Semifinalist in Traralgon, Yeongwol and Yokohama respectively — a run that saw him rise 26 rungs on the ATP Rankings ladder.

Behind John Isner and Sam Querrey, the Americans are now tightly bunched, with Tim Smyczek at #89, Michael Russell #92, Donald Young #96 and Klahn at #97.  Furthermore, Klahn has now assured his entry into the main draw at next year’s Australian Open, where the cutoff is ATP #105. Our pals at Footsoldiers of Tennis have the latest breakdown of who’s chasing ATPoints at the three Challenger events this week, in order to join Klahn in the main draw.

The Wrath of Klahn - photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

The Wrath of Klahn – photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

Next, we see that tennis’s Facundos are still doing just fine, although they’ll need to qualify at next year’s first Slam.  But at least they’ll be seeded. Click here if you’re still unsure about who the Fac they are.

Clearly congrats are in order for Victor Estrella, who’s the Tommy Haas of the Challenger Tour, finding success well into his thirties. A new career high at age 33 is nothing to sneeze at*.

Sweet Victory

Sweet Victor-y

Lastly, congrats to Sam Groth and Tennys Sandgren, whose bubbly Champaign Challenger success (finalist and champion, respectively) resulted in dual breakthroughs into the vaunted Top One Hundred Eighty Seven.

I Will Not Make A Tennys Pun.

I Will Not Make A Tennys Pun

Groth’s breakthrough has been a long time coming, as he’s dabbled in the 200’s for significant periods of time every year since 2008. As the now seventh-ranked Aussie, he inserts himself prominently into the wildcard discussion for the Oz Open.

Champaign Wishes And Caviar Dreams

Champaign Wishes And Caviar Dreams

Welp, there are many more stories I can tell of those in the lower reaches of this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List, but this article is already long enough, don’t you think?  If I’m inspired, I’ll write a sequel.  So check back often!***

*Unless you have a cold, in which case: sneeze away!**

**Your monitor also doubles as a sneeze guard.

***Chances are <1% that I’ll write a sequel, so use your best judgment here.

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Why yes, I do know it’s Wednesday.  But on Sunday only one of these articles had been published, which would’ve made the Reading List more of a Reading Single Item.  So, like the WTF-delayed W.A.T.C.H. list, this article is merely content delayed.  (And I had to make it a “Sunday” list to keep the cherished tradition* alive for the readers who love it so.)  Besides, Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel.

Moving along from day-related nonsense, our first item is the only one that was available before Sunday. And in fact, it was available in August, though for reasons unbeknownst to me it only started making the rounds last week.  It’s a Forbes article detailing the monetary difficulties for the lower-ranked players on tour, through the eyes of Michael Russell.

Muscles Hustles

Muscles Hustles

I’ve long been one decrying the harsh economic realities for those on the Challenger/Futures circuit, and this article brings into sharp relief how tennis can be more of a fiscal challenge than a physical one.  This quote from Patrick McEnroe is the heart of it:

And if players are not competing on the ATP tour regularly,  the math for staying in the game makes less sense. Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of Player Development at the United States Tennis Association, said the possibility of talented youngsters eschewing tennis for more lucrative sports “is what keeps me up at night. If you have a 7 year old, it’s much easier to sign him up for basketball than tennis. The challenge with tennis, is that once they’re exposed, it takes a lot of time and organization to make players significantly better.”

It’s what keeps me up at night too, PMac.  It’s fairly horrifying to know that these players whom I regularly watch, these guys who are so damn talented, might have to give up the game simply because, that particular year, they weren’t making ends meet.  With the average age of the Top 100 escalating to around 27-years-old, this is kind of akin to a player having to submit to a years-long unpaid internship, as they struggle with the grind of everything else on tour.  Maybe next year is the year they would’ve broke through, but they have to quit this year because they can’t make ends meet.

What a nightmare.

And it’s why players are scurrying to challengers all over the world this week, trying to earn those ATPoints that will get them into the main draw of the Australian Open, where just appearing in the draw earns players $23,000.

The next articles are a bit more upbeat, thankfully.  This business insider article continues with the monetary theme but with a brighter fiscal forecast. It’s, I dunno, comforting (?) to know that after some of these players quit because they can’t make money, maybe they’ll make lots of money after they quit.  It’s reverse incentivising.  Or something.

Maybe it’s just due to my poor memory, but what I’ve found is that when players on the lower circuits retire, there’s no announcement, no fanfare at all. And sometimes it takes weeks or months before I’m looking at a draw and think, “Hey, whatever happened to…” [insert player name]. I’m happy to find some of them folk in the confines of this Business Insider piece.

I see you, Barry King!

I see you, Barry King!

Foot Soldiers of Tennis has weighed in with its annual look at which players have successfully qualified for the most ATP World Tour events this year, a.k.a. the Kings of Qualifying. So click the link and find out who is the biggest KOQ.

The East Central Illinois News Gazette offers a well-written and -researched look at Rajeev Ram returning to the Champaign Challenger at the place where he was part of the legendary 2003 NCAA-champion 32-0 Illini team of 2003.  It also hits on other members of the team, past and present.

Lastly — and speaking of former college stars — this week’s Challenger Tour Finals participant and 2009 ITA Player of the Year, Oleksandr Nedovyesov is the focus of Josh Meiseles’s excellent article for the ATP World Tour website, describing the decision-making parameters inherent in a player’s choice to either turn pro or play for a top U.S. school.

The 26-year-old Ukrainian has been on W.A.T.C.H. Lists aplenty as he’s gobbled up titles and soared to a spot in the Top 100.

That’s all for now. Tune in whenever the next day is that I decide is Sunday!

*two weeks now and running strong!

For the past couple of days, I’ve found myself wondering about just how advantageous home court advantage is in tennis.  Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?

Yesterday, I finally started to look for answers. Since I found no sites online that distinguish between home and away records in tennis (and if there is one, please let me know so I can feel silly about having done all this work), I decided to do my own research on the matter. Here’s what I found:

Player Home Hard Court Win% Away Hard Court Win% Home Clay Win % Away Clay Win % Home Grass Win % Away Grass Win % Overall Home Win % Overall Away Win % % of matches played at home
Jack Sock 54.55% 50.00% 65.79% 62.50% 50.00% 33.33% 56.29% 52.94% 89.88%
Michael Russell 63.04% 56.48% 62.81% 44.04% 58.33% 42.86% 63.35% 48.75% 68.37%
Denis Kudla 56.73% 61.54% 55.56% 45.45% 42.86% 58.62% 57.29% 56.60% 78.97%
Tim Smyczek 57.27% 61.11% 59.26% 0.00% 66.67% 55.00% 57.47% 52.27% 91.63%
Ryan Harrison 58.46% 57.14% 53.85% 45.45% 55.56% 50.00% 55.88% 51.61% 68.69%
Rajeev Ram 49.50% 53.00% 35.71% 33.33% 70.00% 34.48% 52.17% 48.24% 71.99%
Rhyne Williams 50.62% 40.00% 59.46% 62.50% 0.00% 40.00% 54.59% 55.88% 84.47%
Alex Kuznetsov 54.84% 52.50% 61.73% 25.00% 62.50% 53.33% 55.21% 46.94% 83.04%
Wayne Odesnik 62.24% 51.28% 70.59% 58.08% N/A 50.00% 62.56% 56.36% 64.40%
Bradley Klahn 65.98% 50.00% 41.18% 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 59.52% 50.00% 92.65%
Donald Young 58.05% 57.50% 56.00% 0.00% 40.00% 36.36% 57.07% 47.73% 81.55%
Bobby Reynolds 61.87% 56.00% 53.85% 27.27% 40.00% 53.66% 60.15% 51.38% 82.73%
Steve Johnson 58.14% 72.73% 47.06% 60.00% 50.00% 75.00% 57.03% 69.23% 83.12%
Austin Krajicek 58.09% 76.47% 65.22% 33.33% N/A N/A 60.22% 65.22% 89.00%
Brian Baker 53.70% 53.33% 87.14% 73.33% 66.67% 61.54% 64.07% 59.57% 83.09%
Robby Ginepri 58.02% 50.00% 48.15% 45.65% 69.23% 39.02% 56.99% 50.26% 66.26%
Tennys Sandgren 63.11% 40.00% 55.17% 16.67% N/A N/A 59.56% 27.27% 94.33%
Bjorn Fratangelo 46.94% N/A 63.64% 75.00% N/A N/A 57.66% 75.00% 89.54%

And yeah, I know that table is hard to read. Alas, my wordpress/HTML tabling skills aren’t what they could be.  To that end, I had to eliminate the “Indoor Home Win Percentage” and the “Indoor Away Win Percentage” columns in order to make room for the rest.  If you’re desperate for that information, I’ll be happy to email it to you.

To make things slightly more legible/enjoyable, I’ve colorfully highlighted the numbers I’m focusing on.  If you’re interested in the methodology behind how I arrived at these numbers, do please check the footnote*.

But within this horrid chart, the first thing that jumps out at me is:

Three of the four players who have a better winning percentage outside North America than they do within have something in common — can you spot it?  That’s right: they all played collegiate tennis. Rhyne Williams, Stevie Johnson and Austin Krajicek all have better records in far-flung regions than they do in the American North.

Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, NCAA Trophies In Hand

Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, NCAA Trophies In Hand

This suggests a few things.  First, the learning curve isn’t as steep transitioning to the pro game from college. This could be because a) they’re more familiar with playing against hostile crowds and people cheering against them (those of you who watch college tennis will know of what I speak); b) their bodies are more developed and physically able to keep up with the men as they begin life on the pro tour; c) their strategic sense is more developed or; d) all of the above. I lean toward “d”, myself, but I’m open to other suggestions.

(Author’s note: yes, I know Tennys Sandgren’s match record away from home flings a statistical wrench at my theory.  However, Sandgren is the American who plays the largest percentage of his matches on U.S. ground, and I don’t consider eleven matches (3 wins, 8 losses) to be a large enough sample size to be statistically relevant.  So my theory remains largely undamaged.  I think.  Maybe. You be the judge.)

Does Tennys Sandgren's Winning % Away From Home Make My Theory A Stretch?

Does Tennys Sandgren’s Winning Percentage Away From Home Make My Theory A Stretch?

You also may notice a red-highlighted Bjorn Fratangelo hangin’ a hefty 75 percent win rate in the foreign soil column.  In this case, the word “soil” is the key to figuring out that stat; e.g. the 2011 French Open Boys Champion is a red clay hound, and there ain’t hardly many red clay courts Stateside.  So he and his team have done a great job finding the proper venues through which he can find success.

The above numbers also give Ryan Harrison a couple of boosts he might be in need of these days: Harrison is the only “young gun” to play over 30% of his matches away from home. Only  the older guys like Robby Ginepri, Wayne Odesnik, and Michael Russell have played a similar schedule. Plus, Ryan has a winning record both at home and on the road.

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Yup.  It’s officially that time of year again.  More specifically, it’s time to start breaking down those qualifying draws and seeing which Challenger Tour players can bust into the main draws this week.  Just to make it clear from the outset: as this is a Challenger Tour site, we’ll be covering top-tier ATP events only to the extent that they involve players ranked outside the Top 90.  Note: this number, while a darn good number, is also just a bit arbitrary and is subject to change at the whims of any of the writers here.  But it’s a good general rule of thumb for ATP tourneys, in any case.

ON TO THE DRAW!  You can click and get an official .pdf with lines and whizbangs and suchlike here or you can just look at a typed out version after this here colon:

[1] MANNARINO, Adrian FRA vs BALL, Carsten AUS
POLANSKY, Peter CAN vs [WC] MITCHELL, Benjamin AUS
SERGEYEV, Ivan UKR vs ITO, Tatsuma JPN
CABAL, Juan Sebastian COL vs [5] KOUBEK, Stefan AUT
[2] BERANKIS, Richard LTU
vs LISNARD, Jean-Rene MON
KLEIN, Brydan AUS vs CRUGNOLA, Marco ITA
[WC] DUCKWORTH, James AUS vs TURSUNOV, Dmitry RUS
PEYA, Alexander AUT vs [6] LUCZAK, Peter AUS
[3] RUSSELL, Michael USA
vs HARRISON, Ryan USA
FARAH, Robert COL vs BACHINGER, Matthias GER
KINDLMANN, Dieter GER vs ZOPP, Jurgen EST
REYNOLDS, Bobby USA vs [7] KOROLEV, Evgeny KAZ
[4] GREUL, Simon GER
vs [WC] JONES, Greg AUS
KNITTEL, Bastian GER vs LOJDA, Dusan CZE
EBDEN, Matthew AUS vs CRIVOI, Victor ROU
[WC] GROTH, Samuel AUS vs [8] ZEMLJA, Grega SLO

  
Mmmmmm.  Tennis draws.  My true and delicious love.  Let me savour this one for a moment, eh? *drools Homer Simpson-style while looking it over*
 
Well, the first thing I notice is that the Aussies got shafted, for the most part.  Now, I realize that any time you have eight Australians in a 32-person draw, perfect distribution is just not a possibility.  However, to have a draw in which there’s an entire Oz-free quarter (i.e. the Russell-Korolev 3rd quarter) and another two quarters that have three Down Under dudes, well… this is less than ideal. 
 
 
From left: Matty Ebden, Greg Jones, Carsten Ball, Fitness Dude, Marinko Matosevic, Peter Luczak
 
Especially egregious is the 4th quarter, which crams legitimate Australian hopes Greg Jones, Matt Ebden and the newly-mohawked Sam Groth into the same pack.  Grrrrrr.
 
 
The infamous, the rarely-photographed Grothawk
 
The next thing I look for is: where are Dmitry Tursunov and Ryan Harrison placed, who are clearly the most dangerous floaters in this draw.  As you can see (do follow along with me, won’t you?), it is Harrison who probably got the more fortuitous placement (for him) – away from top seeds Adrian Mannarino and Ricardas Berankis, who – in my opinion – are the only players who can beat him more often than not.  Thus, I can see the 18 year-old American coming good in this section.  Tursunov, however, has a much rougher road.  After a reasonably solid but should-be manageable opponent in the scrappy WC James Duckworth, Tursunov faces the prospect of a rejuvenated Peter Luczak – who gave Marinko Matosevic all he could handle in the final of the recent AO Wildcard playoff – followed by the lights-out Lithuanean Berankis.  And, as we all know, Rycka has rocketed into the Top 100 and won a whole host of Newcomer and Breakthrough awards at the end of last season.  A tough ask for Tursunov to get through, but not entirely beyond the former Top 20 player by any means.
 
OK, so that’s the overall view. Now let’s take out the fine-toothed draw comb and do a more in-depth, line-by-line audit, breaking down the first round matchups. 
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