The hard court season is underway and Team USA is chomping at the bit. Three of the top four Americans made it the to semifinals of the Atlanta Championships. On Saturday, fans and a national viewing audience got a great day of tennis.
There were the usual signs of rust but there was an abundance of the power and pace that makes the hard court season so competitive. In the nightcap, a revived Mardy Fish used his speed and solid ground game to overcome the top seed and America’s best player, Andy Roddick, 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Fish has now reached the finals in three of the last four tournaments he has entered. This was a match Mardy Fish could not have won 12 months ago. The American has undergone strenuous training and lifestyle changes to shed 30 pounds ad climb back into the top 50 ATP tour players. It has been a long road back.
The result is that Mardy Fish is playing the best tennis of his career. Fish is no longer a serve and let it rip type player. The new Fish is multi- dimensional and loaded with staying power. Mardy Fish is a dangerous opponent for anyone.
Roddick took control of the first set tiebreaker with a first point mini break. Fish broke back on the fifth point and then strung four points together before Roddick won two of Fish’s service points to get to 5-6. Fish fired a big return and had Roddick scrambling on the third set point until Roddick netted a weak backhand.
In the final set, Fish broke in the sixth game to go up 4-2. He served out the set to claim the victory. Fish landed just 40 percent of his first serves but once the points were underway seemed to control the pace. He will need to improve that service percentage against his opponent in the finals, the number 2 seed, John Isner.
The finals will be Fish’s 16th ATP world tour final. He will be looking to improve on his 4-11 record. In 2010, Fish’s record is 26-11.
6’9” John Isner had his hands full in the afternoon sun in Atlanta. 6’8” South African Kevin Anderson and Isner met three times during their collegiate careers so they knew what to expect from each other. From the outset, it was clear that the players would be battling the on-court 140-degree temperatures as well as each other.
Isner and Andersen sport two of the biggest serves in the game. In the end, it was Isner’s ability to hold all seven break points Anderson had that earned him the 63, 6-7 (7), 6-3 triumph.
In the final set, Isner won his only break point chance in the eighth game to go up 5-3. Anderson provided the opportunity with a rare double fault. Both players consistently served in the 135 mph range. Anderson appeared to have the upper hand in the battle of ground strokes but he could not string his winners together.
For Isner Sunday’s finals will be his fourth of the year. He won his first ATP title in Auckland early in the year. He has lost two finals (Memphis and Belgrade) to Sam Querrey, who is entered in Los Angeles this week. Anderson was gracious in defeat but looks like a player to deal with during the hard court surface.
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