Roddick and Fish sail, Querrey sinks in Melbourne
Sam Querrey went walkabout — which is a well-known affliction in these parts — but Mardy Fish stuck rigidly to the task at hand and scored a brilliant victory as the Australian Open got under way Monday at Melbourne Park.
Fish fought back from two sets down against the tall, hard-hitting Romanian Victor Hanescu to win 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, serving and volleying frequently on a medium-paced court — a sure sign that the confidence the slimmed-down American gained from his 2010 performances has carried over to this year's campaign. In an amazing turnaround, Fish lifted his ranking from No. 108 in March to a year-end high at No. 16. If he continues to play like this, more success will follow.
Hanescu was a wall in the opening stages, refusing to buckle in the face of Fish’s fierce attacks on the forehand flank, and it took Fish a while to find his range. But when he did, the fluency of his hitting and the change-ups he produced behind his serve proved too much for a more rigidly constructed opponent.
Andy Roddick, who came through his opener against Czech Jan Hajek, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, said he was proud of his former high school friend. “When I went off to my match, Mardy was trailing two sets and it did not look good,” Roddick said with a grin. “But he pulled it out and it was a great effort. I tell you what — Mardy would not have won that match two years ago.”
Roddick felt the court on Hisense Arena — the second court at Melbourne Park which holds 10,000 people — was playing slow. But he blamed the weather conditions. It was a cloudy, blustery sort of day with the wind coming up from the south, cooling the temperatures to the low sixties. “The conditions were a bit weird,” Roddick added. “The ball felt a bit dead, but I managed to keep it out of his hitting zone and it worked well.”
Roddick felt that the conditions probably worked against Sam Querrey, who slumped to disappointing defeat by 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 against Poland's Lukasz Kubot, who reached the fourth round here last year — a run which helped launch him into the world’s top hundred for the first time.
It is difficult to know what is going through Querrey’s mind during a match, and the term "going walkabout" that the Australians use for those whose minds wander seems to suit him well. Even those periods of the match when he had the upper hand offered glimpses of a concentration level that was faltering. Leading 4-2 in the third set, Querrey managed to lose a game in which he served three aces. Then he promptly broke back with some clinical backhand winners and should have moved on once he had established a two sets to one lead.
But the serve was never as dominant as it might have been with his toss varying slightly in the wind. Sitting low down on Court 2, it was possible to measure the height of the toss against the not-too-distant backdrop of the Ernst & Young skyscraper that is a feature of Melbourne’s downtown skyline. The longer the match went on, the more easily Kubot seemed to read the Californian’s powerful delivery and that led him to a deserving victory.
There was more disappointment for American tennis as Ryan Harrison — regarded as the country’s most promising teenager — was emphatically outplayed by Adrian Mannarino, a 22-year-old French left-hander who had scored a couple of notable victories in Auckland, New Zealand, where he upset Juan Monaco and fellow countryman Arnaud Clement. Earlier, Mannarino had lost in straight sets to Fish in Brisbane, but he was much too clever for Harrison, drop-shotting the American mercilessly to win 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
Fish was not the only player to come back from two sets to love down. Gael Monfils, coached by the Australian Roger Rasheed, took advantage of his opponent’s timidity to beat the young Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-7, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.
De Bakker served for the match in the third, but Monfils refused to panic. “I think he get tighter and then start to struggle physically,” Monfils said. “I find a solution and then just dive on it. I just try to play simple, hold it, like move him a bit, he knows I can run. So it was just basic stuff in my mind. But I know Thiemo a bit. I know sometimes he snap in the head. It’s a weakness for him. So we play with that.”
Cruel sport, tennis.