The Olympus U.S. Open Series is winding down and with one week to go before the U.S. Open starts, the road trip through North America has given fans plenty of excitement and new faces to cheer for. One of those “new faces” is Mardy Fish, who, although a veteran of the sport at age 28, is finally starting to make a name for himself with his recent run this summer. For a moment today, it looked like Fish would get the biggest win of his career as he stayed neck and neck with former world No. 1 Roger Federer in the finals of the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati before Federer finally edged out Fish 6-7, 7-6, 6-4.
At age 28, Fish has long been under the shadow of his good friend Andy Roddick who continues to hold on to being the top ranked American man. Even though Fish got a little lucky yesterday in his surprise three set win over Roddick that saw Roddick blow a 6-4, 5-2 lead before several rain delays and Roddick’s own fatigue caused Roddick to lose the match, it was probably for the best the fitter Fish faced Federer in the final as I suspect Federer would have ran through the weary Roddick in two easy straight sets and again start up more discussion regarding what’s “wrong” with U.S. Tennis.
Instead, those watching live in the stadium and on CBS television here in the States were treated to a real duel as Fish showed off his effortless game that reminded me at times of Federer’s own game as Fish hits the ball without any strange herky-jerky motions like Roddick along with the fact Fish is more adept at net and quicker than Roddick. It’s as if Fish’s real game and potential had been hidden for years under the extra 30 pounds he carried for so long until he made a commitment this time last year to get fitter after undergoing knee surgery. Now ranked No. 21, Fish will go into the U.S. Open as a legit darkhorse and probably with the best chance of any American man to go deep in the draw.
For Federer, winning back to back titles in Cincinnati should give him more confidence going into New York, but as evidenced in his win today, he’s going to have to play more aggressive and go after the ball rather than wait for his opponents to give it to him. Federer is still vulnerable of having an off-day and his early round matches at Flushing Meadows will be the best indicator of his form.
Even though Fish lost, more eyes will certainly be on him to do well in New York. He was scheduled to play next week at the Pilot Pen Championships at New Haven but has pulled out to rest up for the U.S. Open. And with Serena Williams and probably John Isner now not playing along with the uncertain form Roddick, Sam Querrey and Venus Williams, Fish may need to keep up not only with those he plays on the court, but with an increase in media requests as, for the moment, he’s become the best hope for an American to win America’s Grand Slam.