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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 22, 2010

Top challenger had short Australia stay


Advertiser Staff

USTA PRO CIRCUIT IN HAWAI'I HONOLULU CHALLENGER

WHAT: Professional tennis

WHERE: Central O'ahu Regional Park

WHEN: Singles qualifying Sunday from 9 a.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. Main Draw runs Tuesday to following Sunday, with matches from 10 a.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. There is one night feature match at 5 p.m. next Friday.

PURSE: $50,000 $7,200 plus 75 ranking points to singles winner

TOP-RANKED ENTRANT: American Michael Russell is ranked 90th in the world

LOCAL TIES: University of Hawai'i sophomore Leo Rosenberg and Hendrick Bode, Hawai'i Pacific's top player the last three years, earned the wild cards in singles, and HPU's Daniel Luedi and Nikola Petrov in doubles. Punahou graduate Ikaika Jobe, UH junior Dennis Lajola and Luedi are in singles qualifying.

ADMISSION: Free

SPECIAL EVENTS:

Sunday Junior Team Tennis Appreciation Day (1-4 p.m.) and Pro-Am (2-4 p.m.)

Next Friday School Day (9 a.m.-noon), High School and Community Tennis clinics (3:30

5 p.m.) and USTA Adult League and Play to Learn Tennis Appreciation Nite with featured evening match (5 p.m.)

Jan. 30 Community Clinic for adult and junior beginners (8:30-9:30 a.m.), USTA Membership Appreciation (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)

Jan. 31 USTA Membership Appreciation (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) with 10-under Showdown Exhibition at intermission

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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.