American Michael Russell has distanced himself from comments posted on his Facebook page labelling Lleyton Hewitt a ”racist” and a ”douche bag”, for which Hewitt’s agent, David Drysdale, will nevertheless seek clarification from the men’s governing body, the ATP.
Russell subsequently blamed his publicist for ”apparently” posting the remarks without his approval, the extraordinary sledge having followed Hewitt’s 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 loss to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the final of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Rhode Island.
While Russell had been well beaten by Mahut in the semis, rain having condensed the final two rounds to a single, sweltering day, Hewitt was forced to play a draining three-set semi against two-time defending champion John Isner on Sunday morning, and then back up less than two hours later to chase his first title in more than three years.
While acknowledging Mahut’s efforts, the Australian also said he had ”paid the price” for his tougher draw. ”It’s disappointing,” he said, having failed to serve out the final at 5-4 in the second set.
”If I could’ve had a day off and come back and played the final, I reckon things would’ve been different.”
Russell’s publicist was clearly unimpressed. ”Lleyton Hewitt – what a douche bag and a racist by the way too,” the Facebook post said. ”How about you choked and stopped making excuses.”
When Russell returned to his hotel room, it was to a lively social media reaction, prompting an explanation on Twitter, as well as a repudiation on Facebook of what he described as ”a mess” of someone else’s making. ”Recent Facebook posts & comments were not approved by me as I am not the one managing my Facebook page!” he tweeted.
Drysdale said: ”From our point of view it was surprising, very surprising, because Lleyton and Michael have always got on pretty well.
”Lleyton’s first comment was, ‘oh, someone else has written that’, and he didn’t seem too concerned by it. I don’t think Lleyton felt it came from Michael, but that’s the dangers of these Facebook pages and Twitter – if people aren’t controlling them themselves, this is what can happen.
”So I don’t think [Russell’s] done it, but you would think that the ATP would look into it … to find out what’s going on, and that’s something I might take up with them. I think there should be some sort of official clarification.”
Drysdale confirmed that Hewitt’s next goals were the lead-ups and the US Open and then a Davis Cup world group qualifying tie against Poland in September.