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Russell: "American men’s tennis is in an excellent position right now"
"We have a lot of talented players knocking on the door of the Top 20," Michael Russell, coach of Taylor Fritz, tells TENNIS.com.
Published Jan 07, 2022
WATCH: Flashback: Tennis Channel Live discusses Taylor Fritz claiming the top American spot in the rankings.
As the U.S. ATP Cup captain, former ATP player-turned-coach Michael Russell has had a courtside seat as the Americans start their season—and he's very positive about their prospects.
Four Americans are in Sydney for the team competition—Taylor Fritz, John Isner, Brandon Nakashima and Rajeev Ram, who is not competing upon testing positive for coronavirus on arrival.
Ranked No. 4 in doubles, Ram now "has to quarantine until he’s negative here in Sydney. He will be able to join the team again soon," Russell told TENNIS.com in an email interview.
Now coaching the 24-year-old Fritz, Russell says his player can keep moving up, having reached a career-high of No. 23 but also playing a heavy load of 22 tournaments.
"Taylor finished 2021 playing really well, and we want to continue to have that form. Taylor loves to compete, so it’s finding the right balance of tournament play and training blocks," Russell noted. "We are in the process of creating the optimal schedule for him to continue to get stronger on and off the court, which will help him sustain a very high level over the course of the year."
The captain also doesn't view 36-year-old Isner as considering retirement, saying his game is still very competitive on tour.
"John has done a tremendous job of improving so many parts of his game during his career, which is evident in his results. He is very comfortable at net, and his returns have improved a lot as he puts so much pressure on his opponents with his serving," he said.
Nakashima, who is only 20 years old, is ranked No. 68 and climbing. He has very good foot speed and groundstrokes, and is getting comfortable on the pro tour.
“Brandon is rock solid and very impressive in his professionalism and approach to the game. He has steadily risen up the rankings and he has a great future ahead of him,” Russell said.
The American team has gone 1-2 in its ATP Cup ties against Canada, Germany and United Kingdom, but this could be a good season for Americans in singles, according to Russell.
"American men’s tennis is in an excellent position right now. We have a lot of talented players knocking on the door of the Top 20 and hopefully, soon in the Top 10," Russell said. "It’s exciting to see."
There are currently 10 Americans in the ATP Top 100 rankings. Fritz is the country's top-ranked player.