Russell Bids Farewell After 17 Years

American stalwart hangs up his racquet

The city of Detroit is an industrial and commercial capital of the United States, inhabited by dedicated and diligent workers, who work tirelessly at their craft. It’s no wonder one of its native sons epitomised those exact traits on the tennis court for nearly two decades. A dogged and relentless athlete, Michael Russell competed with his heart on his sleeve and after 17 years he decided to hang up his racquet at the US Open.

The 37 year old bade farewell in front of friends and family, including his wife Lilly, on Grandstand court where he bowed out in the doubles third round with friend Donald Young. An agile performer with bulging biceps, Russell earned the nickname “Iron Mike” for his durability and longevity, predicated on a dedicated fitness regimen. A key member of a thriving generation of Americans on the ATP World Tour, he reached a career-high of World No. 60 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in August 2007.

"Mike was the ultimate professional," said Mike Bryan. "He worked unbelievably hard. He can happily look back on his career knowing that he did everything he could to be the best player he could be. Everybody on tour loves being around Mike and he was possibly the most hilarious and nice person in the locker room.

"With that said, Mike competed ferociously and he'd come back from being way down in matches countless times. Bob and I were lucky to grow up and travel the world playing junior tournaments alongside him. You could see early on that he was going to make it by his sheer tenacity and work ethic. While rooming with him at tournaments in the juniors, he'd be done with 500 sit ups and a five-mile run before I'd even woken up. I definitely think this rubbed off on me and I have him to thank for helping me be a better player and person." 

Arguably one of the most iconic moments of Russell’s career came on the terre battue of Roland Garros back in 2001. As a qualifier, Russell would streak to the Round of 16 where he led top seed and eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten by two sets and a break, holding a match point. The Brazilian would storm back, but Russell earned the respect of many with his performance and flew onto the radar of the game’s greats.

"Mike was a maximiser," added John Isner. "He never left any stone unturned when it came to his tennis. For someone who was smaller in stature, he packed a big punch on the tennis court. He competed like an animal, which in my opinion was his best attribute. ‎He had a stellar career and will enjoy his retirement very much."

In total, Russell squared off against six former World No. 1’s, including Kuerten, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Marcelo Rios. He reached the main draw 115 times at ATP World Tour events and on 34 occasions at the Grand Slam stage. Some of the 5’8” right-hander’s greatest victories included a Top 10 win over then ninth-ranked Mardy Fish in Houston 2012 and a stunning triumph over Tomas Berdych en route to the Indian Wells fourth round in 2007 – his best result at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. He also reached the semi-finals at three ATP World Tour events, on the clay of Houston 2012, the grass of Newport '13 and the hard courts of Memphis '14.

Russell utilised the ATP Challenger Tour in maintaining his impressive longevity over the years as well. One of the all-time legends on the circuit, he finished his career at No. 8 in match wins (276) and tied for fifth in titles (15). In 2009, he compiled a 42-15 win-loss record, hoisting three trophies from six finals.

Russell’s retirement signals the end of an era in American tennis, joining Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri and Ryan Sweeting as players who recently closed the curtain on their professional careers. The Houston resident, who says he would like to remain in tennis in some capacity, spoke to ATPWorldTour.com at the US Open. Watch Here