August 21, 2010

Turning the Tables

The first semifinal at the Cincinnati Masters today was one of the more inspirational ones I've seen.

Two-time winner Andy Roddick took on friend and wildcard Mardy Fish, a man who's experiencing quite a resurgence in his career this year. Roddick, who will return to the top ten next week thanks to his final four appearance in Ohio, was the on-paper favorite. But Mardy, a winner of back-to-back titles in Newport and Atlanta, won their last match up and had already eliminated Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco and Andy Murray during his run.

That's not to say Roddick hadn't been impressive this week too. Still struggling with a bout of mono, the 2009 Wimbledon finalist fell in the fourth round of the Slam and couldn't repeat his run in Washington. But in Cincinnati he seemed to find his game, beating Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic in successive matches. After the match, he had this to say about his game:

"To be honest, I came here and I had no expectations. For me to get in five really tough matches is more than I could've asked for going into the Open. Honestly, when I came here I was thinking maybe two matches...I think this week has been a complete positive considering how I felt and kind of where I was eleven or twelve days ago."

Today, though, Mardy had his number -- though it didn't look like that to start. While both men came out firing, belting big forehands across the net, an hour-long rain delay late in the first set seemed to upset the groove. Fish came out of the break a little sluggish and dropped serve at 4-5. A few games into the second set, he seemed to be in trouble again, finding himself down 1-3.

But that's when things turned around. With Mardy about to serve at 2-5 a raincloud opened overhead for the third time during the match. The delay this time was much shorter and within minutes both players were back on the court. Fish held serve, forcing Roddick to serve it out, but amazingly his much more decorated rival was not able to convert. Mardy evened the score and pushed to a tiebreak. With the help of six aces and a 89% win rate on first serves, the twenty-eight year old suddenly found himself in a third set.

"You can see in that situation that guys are going to get nervous," he said after the match. "I just tried to make him play as much as I could. I tried not to make too many errors on that game...I made him play four points."

In the decider it seemed Roddick had lost a bit of steam. Fish rolled off to a 4-0 start and in just about half an hour was serving for the match. With the win, he's earned the right to play his fourth final of the year and his second in Cincinnati -- incidentally he lost to Roddick in three long sets back in 2003.

He also sets up a meeting with Roger Federer, who won the second semifinal this evening in a much less dramatic two sets over Marcos Baghdatis. Fish doesn't have the best record against the newly-reminted world #2, but he did win their last meeting in Indian Wells about two years ago. So maybe Federer should look out -- Mardy seems to have found a way to repeat wins he's had against much-favored opponents.

And if he continues to play like he has been, Roger might just be his latest victim

No comments: