Top challenger had short Australia stay
This week Michael Russell was taking a set off U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro at the Australian Open. Next week, he will be playing in Waipahu.
Russell is the highest-ranked tennis player to enter the 2010 Honolulu Challenger, a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event that starts Sunday at the Central O'ahu Regional Park Tennis Complex. The 31-year-old from Detroit, who is 10 inches shorter than the fourth-seeded Del Potro, took him to four sets Monday in Melbourne.
Russell is ranked 90th in the world and has been as high as 60th. He reached the Round of 16 at the 2001 French Open, falling to eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten in five sets, and has played in every Grand Slam. He has a record 21 wins on the Pro Circuit, a series of 94 tournaments that is characterized as "the pathway to the U.S. Open and tour-level competition."
The rest of the 32-man draw is made up of players from all over the world and ranked in the top 300. It includes two-time Junior Grand Slam champion Donald Young, who reached the third round of 2007 U.S. Open, and Jesse Witten, who beat two top-100 players at last year's U.S. Open before falling to Novak Djokovic in four sets.
Jesse Levine, a 22-year-old from Florida, will also be at CORP. Levine upset Marat Safin last year at Wimbledon.
Japan's Kei Nishikori is starting his comeback here after having elbow surgery last year. The 20-year-old is considered the "face of tennis" in Japan, where the tennis federation named him "Project 45." The goal is to get Nishikori to No. 45 in the world, one better than the highest ranking a Japanese man has ever achieved.
Two years ago he became the youngest player in the top 100, after beating James Blake for his first ATP title. Soon after, Nishikori signed a three-year deal with Sony. He was the first Japanese man ranked in the top 100 since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1996, and was voted ATP Newcomer of the Year in 2008.
Nishikori hasn't played since April, when he upset Tomas Berdych, the 20th-ranked player.
This Challenger was previously played at Waikoloa and former champs include Blake and Andy Roddick.
Organizers still need ballrunners — formerly called ballboys — on the weekdays. Anyone over the age of 11 is welcome, as are juniors who are younger but play team tennis at the 2.5 level or above. Training, a T-shirt, cap and lunch are provided.
For information, e-mail Dreith@hawaii.usta.com.