FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Going into this year’s open, Mardy Fish was having a very impressing year. A finals loss in Cincinnati to Roger Federer is nothing to sneeze at, so much so that many a prognosticator was picking Fish to be America’s best chance to win the Men’s Singles.
But of course, they have to play the matches and Fish survived a first round scare to Czech Jan Hajek in five sets, 6-0 3-6 4-6 6-0 6-1.
“I won”, Fish laughed when asked at what happened today. “No, these guys are good, man. You know, I started out great. I made one unforced error in the first set, entire first set. Played a bad game early in the second and he held, served well, held throughout there. 4‑All in the third set he hit four winners, broke me there, and played a long game the next game and he held.
“Next thing you know, you’re down two sets to one thinking, you know, maybe you’re going home. That’s not where I want to be right now, so I was lucky to turn it around and play a little more aggressive. I was playing a little too defensive. You know, lucky enough to turn it around.”
It’s funny because Fish has been a journeyman for most of his career but at age 28, he seems to have put it all together by watching his diet, while going into a fitness regimen.
“I feel like a completely different person, playing like a completely different player, and able to do things that I’ve never been able to do before,” Fish said. “Hopefully it’s a career thing.”
And he is seeing the results, because in Cincinnati he beat Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco, Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray, and Andy Roddick, which is no small task to say the least.
“I feel so much different, as well,” he said. “You know, I can look at pictures, and some pictures I might look okay and some, you know, not.
“Even from 2009 Wimbledon, I mean, you know, it’s almost embarrassing to think about as a professional athlete or a professional tennis player. I mean, we have to be in such good shape. It’s pretty crazy how I kind of got away with it ‑ for a little while, at least.”
All of this showed today as Fish was on the ropes to Hajek, but with temperatures in the mid-90s, the Czech wilted, while Fish enjoyed the heat, like…well a fish enjoys water.
“Yes, it’s hot,” he thought. “This is probably the hottest it’s gonna be here. But, I mean, from what we went through this summer, what John and I went through this summer in Atlanta, I mean, it’s just not even ‑‑ I can’t tell you. It’s not even close. It’s not even ‑‑ I mean, it’s 50 degrees less, I’m telling you, and no humidity, so it just feels nice. It just feels kind of hot.”
And even with the heat, Fish endured. And many a champion has a five set scare in the first round or two. Today, Fish survived the test and the heat.