Fish Ready for Nadal Clash
Rafael Nadal American Mardy Fish set up a second round meeting with top seed and man-of-the-hour Rafael Nadal after cruising past British wild card Jamie Baker at the Stella Artois Championships on Tuesday.
Fish, who came into the tournament as the in-form grass court player having won the Challenger title in Surbiton last week, needed just 62 minutes to record a 6-1, 6-3 win over Baker – his sixth in a row on grass.
“I played well,” said Fish afterwards. “My goal was to go out there and keep playing the way I was playing. I had a good week last week, beat some good players and some big servers, you know, definitely some good players on grass.
“I just wanted to go out there and play and keep it rolling really, and just serve well. And I really wanted to get to the second round and to try to face Nadal on grass. So that was definitely a match that I wanted to get through, you know, because he's a good, young player.”
And the 24-year-old Florida resident believes there could be no better time to take on World No. 2 Nadal than on his Queen’s Club debut on Wednesday, despite having lost to the young Spaniard at Indian Wells earlier this year.
“I definitely wouldn't want to play him on clay, but on grass for sure,” said Fish, who reached the final in Nottingham two years ago. “I like my chances. He's obviously an amazing player. It will be a little bit of a different matchup than slow hard courts in Indian Wells. Grass favors me a lot more. Just coming off the French and playing a lot of matches there, I'm sure he's not really used to the grass yet. I definitely would like to get him, if I was to play him, early on, coming off of a lot of clay court tournaments like he's just done.”
James Blake, Fish’s friend and doubles partner this week, has beaten Nadal in both of their previous meetings, including at last year’s US Open. So will Fish be asking for some tips ahead of the match?
“Of course, of course,” he said. “I'm sure we'll go to dinner tonight and I'll ask him a little bit about it. James plays a little bit differently than I do. James likes to run around the backhand, hit a lot of forehands. That's not really my style of play. I can't really do that because my backhand is my better shot. But I'm definitely going to ask him - he's definitely got his number. Not very many people do.”
Fish, who slipped to No. 227 in the ATP rankings at the end of 2005 having twice undergone surgery on his left wrist. But after a slow start this year, he returned to the Challenger circuit and won the title in Tallahassee on hard courts, quickly followed by his second ATP title on clay in Houston the following week. Now back at No. 86 in the rankings, Fish is relishing the opportunity of getting back out on centre stage.
“I dropped to 350 in the world and I knew I had to play those tournaments to get back up,” said Fish. “Now that I'm back inside the top 100 at about 85 now, I mean, I just didn't expect it, this jump to be so soon. You got to get through those matches and you got to get through those tournaments, and I've done a good job so far.”
On coming back from the surgeries in 2005, he added: “I just didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how long it was going to take, how it was going to feel after the second surgery. It's tough, to come back after one surgery, and after two surgeries in the same spot, it was a little nerve?wracking.
“But I'm extremely excited to be back. And, again, to have won a tournament on three different surfaces this year has been, you know, not something that I expected. And to win a tour event on clay was not something that I expected so soon. So I'm excited. Definitely, definitely happy to be back.”