MTennis Pro Canes: Michael Russell
Russell participated in his first pro circuit event of 2013 when he traveled to Maui, Hawaii, for the annual USTA Maui Challenger, an event he won in 2006.
The 5-8 right-hander came into this year's Maui Challenger ranked a No. 3 seed, making Russell the highest seeded American participating. In the first round, Russell advanced after fellow American Donald Young retired due to illness before the start of the fifth game. Russell, however, was up 4-0 in the first set.
In second round action, Alex Kuznetsov presented a stiff challenge for the 34-year-old, beating Russell, 6-0, in the first set. But the veteran Russell kept his composure and shut the door on Kuznetsov in the second and third frames, winning 7-5, 6-3, respectively. Russell powered his way into the semifinals behind a, 6-4, 6-1 victory over American Dennis Kudla.
Poised for the semifinal round, Russell was set to battle an opponent he seen before. Germany's Mischa Zerev and Russell have faced off four times throughout their careers, with the series tied at 2-2. Zerev won the series tiebreaker after downing Russell in straight sets (7-5, 6-3) to advance to the final round.
Russell, who currently resides in Houston, Texas, recently competed in nearby Dallas where he advanced to the quarterfinal before dropping a closely contested 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 3-6 decision to fellow American James Blake. Prior to his quarterfinal match, Russell outlasted Chinese-Taipei's Jimmy Wang in the first round, winning 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. In the following round, Russell notched a straight sets victory over Pierre Hughes-Herbet, winning 6-2, 7-6(3) to advance to the quarterfinals.
Since entering the professional ranks in 1998, Russell's career has been marked by several accomplishments. Russell is the all-time leader in USTA Pro Circuit singles wins with 22. He has earned a spot among the top-100 singles player rankings for the majority of his career. In August 2007, Russell reached a career-high No. 60 ranking.
Russell's best Grand Slam performance came in 2001, when he advanced to the fourth round of the French Open, holding match point against eventual champion, Gustavo Kuerten. In April 2012, Russell turned in his best tour-level result, defeating then-Top 10 player Mardy Fish, to advance to the semifinals of the ATP World Tour event in Houston, Texas.
Russell, who lettered for UM in 1997, had one of the most successful freshman campaigns in Hurricane history. The Detroit, Mich., native ended his only collegiate season with a NCAA Rookie of the Year nod. He earned a No. 7 national ranking among singles players and left Miami to pursue a professional career the following year.