McEnroe, Roddick, Isner; Can Michelsen Follow In Their Footsteps?
Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, John Isner and Taylor Fritz. Just some of the American stars who have soared to success on the ATP Tour in the Open Era.
Looking to follow in their footsteps is 19-year-old American Alex Michelsen, who has fond memories of watching his countrymen compete.
“I always watched John McEnroe back on tapes because he was kind of the legend and he was super entertaining to watch,” Michelsen told ATPTour.com. “And then I grew up watching Taylor Fritz, Steve Johnson, these guys at the top, they're always pretty good.
“McEnroe was just entertaining. He's a little bit of a hothead and he was very good. I love the serve-volley style back in the day and my dad played like that too, so it entertained me.”
McEnroe enjoyed a storied career, winning seven major titles and climbing to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Michelsen has a long way to go to reach those historic heights, but he has made good progress in his first year on Tour.
The 19-year-old won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Chicago in July and reached his maiden tour-level final in Newport in July and decided to turn pro following his run, forgoing his eligibility to play college tennis at the University of Georgia.
The World No. 112’s impressive result at the ATP 250 grass-court event, coupled with the achievements of those who came before him were factors in his decision.
“Americans at the top made me feel like one day maybe I could be there,” Michelsen said. “And it was far away life in a faraway dream, but here we are. I learned that an American can get to the top. Because tennis is a European-dominated sport, for the most part. So, it's kind of when one broke top 10 It was like, OK, well, then we can do it.
“I wasn't really processing what had happened in Newport when I was in Chicago. But as I went home, and then the days kind of went by, and I made the decision to go pro. I was just kind of in my room by myself and I thought, ‘I just did all that’. I went from 250 to 140 [in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings], in a couple of weeks, and I made strides that I never really thought I'd make. I'm just planning on one foot at a time.”
One of Michelsen’s biggest influences growing up was former World No. 8 John Isner, who retired after a 17-year playing career at this year’s US Open.
“John’s influence [was big] because of the big game style,” Michelsen said. “Stevie [Johnson] and I don't exactly play like each and I don't play like John either. But the big serve always fascinated me and trying to get to the net. I enjoyed that. And I feel like I've tried to apply that a little bit with myself.”
Michelsen had the opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow University of Georgia alumni Isner in Newport, where he faced and defeated the 38-year-old in the semi-finals. It is an experience Michelsen won’t forget in a hurry.
“It was totally surreal,” Michelsen said. “I remember in the warmup when he was hitting serves. I was like, ‘I can't believe I am playing this guy’. I never thought I would get a chance to play. And I know he's at the tail end of his career. I'm super happy to share the court with him once before he retired.
“John is a great guy. From everything I've experienced with him them. He's very nice. Cordial. Always been nice to make jokes about Georgia. He is a funny guy.”
Michelsen is chasing a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals. The American, who is aiming to make his debut at the 21-and-under-event is 10th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. Michelsen gave insight into what fans can expect from him on court if he does qualify for the first sanctioned professional tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia.
“I think I compete really, really well,” Michelsen said. “I feel like I'm always going to give it 100 per cent whereas you know some guys might not give it 100 per cent every day but I know when I got on the court I'm going give it my all to win.”