American Michael Russell, the former ATP pro who peaked at No. 60 in the ATP rankings and is the coach of American Tennys Sandgren, says he told Sandgren to look at the positives after his loss to Roger Federer at the Australian Open and use it to build for the rest of the 2020 season.
Federer came from seven match points down to beat the American in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Speaking to the ATP Tour website, Russell says, "I was really proud of how well he competed and mentally engaged himself and just reminded him of that after the match.
I reminded him how much opportunity, how much inspiration, how many positives he can really take away from this and really build on it in the rest of 2020. It’s reminding him that he is a player that can be Top 25 in the world, Top 20, and not getting complacent in that mindset or mentality where, 'I’m playing Roger, I had that opportunity, it’s lost.'
It’s more about, 'Okay, I’ve been having great Grand Slam runs, I’ve done well at some 250s, I can do this. I can be a more consistent top-level player. This is just gratification showing how good I am, so let’s build on this.
So yes, I’m disappointed. Yes, I was in a great situation. But at the same time, I put myself in this situation in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. This was not match points against Roger at a smaller tournament. This is a Grand Slam quarter-final.
I’ve won a lot of matches, put a lot of hard yards in to get to this point. I can do this again, I can continue to do this. And now I’ve created an aura and energy that people know how fit I am. Let’s use this and build upon it.'
Russell says he thought Sandgren played the match points a bit conservatively but gave full credit to Federer for coming back to win from such a tough situation. "I’ll be candid. He played the match points conservatively, which is understandable in that situation.
You feel like, 'Okay, I don’t want to go for too much' because you feel like, 'I don’t know how many opportunities I’m going to have.' So a little bit of it is kind of saying, 'Okay, I’m going to play these balls to Roger.
Roger might make an error.' You can see that a little bit in there. He played a couple points aggressively, a little bit unlucky with that point where he came in, had the volley, went cross-court and not down the line, he knows that.
Roger hit an amazing stick save. He only had one match point on his serve, didn’t hit the spot that he wanted to on the serve and unfortunately lost the point. He could have played a little more aggressively of course in hindsight.
But it’s easy in hindsight to look at that. He didn’t really make an error unless he was a little off balance. And kudos to Roger, he stepped up and basically put on freaking robot mode where he wasn’t going to miss a ball on those points."
The 41 year old Russell, who was known for his own physical fitness on the court, says that Sandgren's fitness has helped him as his opponents know that he would willing to go the distance and make the match a physical battle.
"I think it creates a definite advantage on court. Players are talking about it, they know this guy is extremely fit, plays physical tennis. So in a three-out-of-five-set match, it’s going to be a battle. I have to be willing to suffer and a lot of players, they might not be willing to put that type of suffering in while Tennys is definitely willing to do that and that’s giving him a lot of confidence. It’s also creating a lot of chatter in the locker room because people know that."