A Lighter Fish Swims At The Open

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.

Sweet Caroline Smiles To The Semis

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Although America’s Sweetheart is out, “Sweet Caroline” is still plaing music at the Open. And with Melanie Oudin going home, Caroline Wozniacki becomes the story in Flushing.

The attractive 19 year-old from Denmark, has slowly been improving and now has reached her first Semifinals at a Grand Slam. She is just soaking in every minute as she emerges into the tennis spotlight.

“It’s an amazing feeling, especially when you’re playing at night,” she said. “Playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, 23,000 people watching you going on the court, I mean, you cannot really describe the atmosphere. It’s just magical. It’s amazing.”

What was amazing was how this cool Scandinavian came in with a game plan against the sentimental favorite Oudin. Instead of playing her game, she stayed back and let the 17 year-old’s inexperience come out. The result was a 6-2, 6-2 win and a trip to meet Yanina Wickmayer in the Semifinals.

“Yeah, today definitely I was like, I have to get as many balls back as possible and try to make her run,” she said. “Keep her on her backhand, but also, you know, make her run on her forehand. That was my goal, and I think it was a good way to play the match today.”

Even with Oudin on the court, it’s are to root against this attractive 19 year-old because of her sunny disposition. Her million dollar smile lights up the room as she graciously speaks about her opponents.

And that includes her Semifinal partner Wickmayer. Both player each other in juniors and Wozniaski says they are friends. Although she won’t let anything else out of the bag.

“I’ve tried not to watch too much tennis while I was here,” she said. “I mean, I watched Melanie’s matches because they were shown a lot. She’s a young player coming up, so I wanted to see her play. But I haven’t seen Yanina playing too much this tournament, but I know her really well from the juniors and we’ve played each other growing up.

“So, I mean right now I’m just so happy I’m in the Semifinals. I’m just going to enjoy a day off tomorrow, and I’ll talk to my dad who is also my coach about the strategy. But right now, I don’t really have any.”

One thing she will be doing is trying to stay positive and not let anything get to her. Against Oudin, Wozniacki just tried to stay positive through the whole match, which allowed her the easy victory.

“Today especially today it was important for me just to keep positive, try to just fight for every point,” she said. Because I knew if I show her too much emotions she will pick it up straightaway. I’ve seen that before in her matches. I mean, the crowd helped her through, as well. So today was just important, just to keep positive, keep fighting for every point.”

Off the court, Wozniacki just tries to keep it cool. Right now she doesn’t have a boyfriend, yet has a sense of humor about it. Earlier today Wickmayer joked to the Belgian press that there were 2000 boyfriends out there for her.

Not so in Denmark apparently.

“I haven’t read the newspapers in Denmark, but I’m sure they can find a boyfriend for me,” she said. “I don’t have any real boyfriends right now, and usually I keep to one.”

Don’t worry though with her style, looks and personality, Sweet Caroline should have no problem finding the right man.

Cut Murray A Little Slack

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – If you think the New York press is brutal, just take a look at what the British contingent at the US Open asked their national hero Andy Murray after his match today.

Question 1: Pleased to get through that, considering you weren’t feeling your best?

Question 2: Was it the heat, as well? Did that get to you?

Question 3: Had you prepared any differently in terms of what you ate or drank before?

If you didn’t know any better you would think Murray would be going home, but he did in fact win his second round match against Chilean Philip Capdeville, he just dropped the second set,  6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2.

“I played three, you know, very good sets and one poor one,” Murray responded to the first question. “But you’re allowed to play a bad set sometimes.  I came back well from it. You know, I don’t know, just felt a little bit lethargic, a little bit low on energy. You know, I don’t know why. But, you know, managed to pick it up at the end when I needed to.”

You see, Murray is used to this kind of treatment. Over in Great Brittan the Scottish superstar is Alex Rodriguez,  Brad Pitt, and Paris Hilton all rolled into one. He is their great white hope for a Grand Slam champion, and even if it’s not Wimbledon this year, Murray is expected to at least repeat his final appearance of 2008.

That’s what makes it tough for the 22 year-old, who is ranked seeded second behind Roger Federer. For the English, he is the star, a young player who a .faded empire is pinning their hopes upon. Just look at the other top players out there. Most are European who proudly wear the colors of their flags on their sleeves.

Much like the way New York has a rivalry with Boston, Great Brittan has its feuds with every other country in the EU. So with every Federer win and Rafael Nadal victory, British pride takes a hit. Remember this was once an empire that controled most of the world. These days they can’t even win their own tournament.

That is until Murray came on the scene. Last Saturday, he said he doesn’t get followed home in New York like he did in England. In fact, he finds the city rather relaxing, although he is sleeping in a hotel.

“You know, Wimbledon for me is nice away from the court, because at the end of the day you get to go back and sleep in your own bed and be at home,” he said. “In some ways, that’s very, very relaxing, compared to having to stay in hotels and whatnot.

“I mean, I’ve always loved playing this tournament since I was young. I like the atmosphere here. I like New York as a city. You know, whether you get recognized or not to me doesn’t make a huge difference on how much I enjoy a place or not.”

Plus Flushing Meadows is the site of his best finish in a Grand Slam and most likely the place he will eventually win, if he can ever get by Federer.

“This is my best surface,” he said. “I mean, physically I think most of the players – well, for me anyway, you go into Australia probably feeling the best all around. Mentally fresh, you know, physically you’re going to be in good shape because you’ve just had the off-season. You can make sure you prepare properly.

“You know, here I’ve obviously played a lot of matches, so I feel match tight. But it’s a long year. Mentally I feel fresh just now, but it’s a little bit different to the start of the year.”

So maybe the British press should lay off of Murray a little bit. He has brought British pride back to tennis and is a classy player in a sport filled with good guys.

Remember, it’s okay to have a bad day, and today, he only had a bad set.