U.S. Open: Mardy Fish gets embraceable moment; Federer just has a moment
Mardy Fish, 28 and without many of the magic moments that had been predicted for the athletic tennis player who grew up with Andy Roddick and James Blake, stood in the center of Louis Armstrong Stadium on Saturday afternoon and tried to give the 10,000 fans a group hug. And they hugged back.
Fish overcame some nervous patches where he seemed as if he thought he could hurry his way into the fourth round, and when that happened Fish would drop in some double faults and mishit forehands. He threw away a fourth set in a flurry of angry errors. And sometimes they weren't Fish's fault. While Hurricane Earl didn't bring much water to the U.S. Open, it left the grounds at the U.S. Tennis Center littered with debris and with shots that wavered and wobbled in gusts that topped 20 miles per hour.
But ultimately the 19th-seeded Fish, who lives in Beverly Hills with his wife and UCLA grad Stacey Gardner, beat the man he was supposed to beat, 32-year-old Frenchman Arnaud Clement, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
In the fourth round Fish will play either third-seeded Novak Djokovic or Blake, whose ranking has dropped below 100 and who is hanging on to the sport partly for one last chance at Open glory.
Winning more routinely in the men's draw was unflappable and second-seeded Roger Federer, who seemed sympathetic to his French opponent, Paul-Henri Mathieu, whose disposition soured as the wind ruined all his clever slices and angles. Federer won, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and shrugged when asked about the ease of his win. "What can I say?" he said. And maybe it was best to leave the talking to his shots.
A potential quarterfinal opponent for Federer is fifth-seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden who was equally impressive and, as usual, impassive, afer his 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands. Soderling has beaten Federer once in 13 meetings, but the victory came in the last meeting when he knocked Federer out of the quarterfinals at the French Open in May.
-- Diane Pucin, reporting from New York
Photo: Mardy Fish sends out a hug to the fans following his victory Saturday at the U.S. Open. Credit: Peter Foley / EPA