No sooner had Mardy Fish qualified for the ATP World Finals in London for the first time in his career than he had to retire at the beginning of the third set here in the BNP Paribas Masters against Juan Monaco with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that forced him out of Basel last week.
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Deliberately adopting aggressive tactics despite the slowness of the court, Fish had swept through the first set 6-1 and reached two match points at 6-4 in the second set tie-break. But, just a few minutes before, the troublesome hamstring went from just being tight to giving him pain. He quit with a slender lead with the score at 1-6, 7-6, 1-2.
“I don’t think it had an effect on my missing those match points although I have done well closing out breakers this year,” said Fish. “But when the pain got worse I knew I had to stop with London, which is arguably the most important tournament of my career, coming up.”
Fish will work with his personal physio several times every day as he moves on to London and has no thoughts of pulling out.
“I’ll certainly play in London,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that. Even if it’s torn I’m still going to try and play. But I’d like it to be at a level that I want to compete at.”
Fish had an MRI last week and will have another on Friday to assess the damage.
“Then ice, electric stim, ultrasound, massage, rest,” he said reeling off the routine he knows too well. “Then in a couple of days hopefully I can get on a bike and try and strengthen it around that area as well.”
The American No. 1 knew he was a certainty to make London when Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic lost for the first time in five meetings to No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych 7-5, 6-4 earlier in the day. Tipsarevic was the last contender who could have possibly bumped Fish out of the eighth spot but he would have had to win the tournament here to do so.
Reflecting where the strength of tennis lies these days, there were three Serbs occupying two courts here at the Omnipalais today. While Tipsarevic battled away on the little No. 1 Court, Novak Djokovic found himself in a fight against his Davis Cup colleague Victor Troicki in the main stadium and was happy to emerge as a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 winner.
“It’s never easy to play against a friend,” said Djokovic, “It was a difficult match and I still wasn’t feeling maybe as I would wish with my shoulder and condition. But I pulled out a good performance in the end, I think.”
Later Roger Federer walked out to a rapturous reception from the 12,000 crowd despite the fact that he was playing a French favorite, Richard Gasquet.
"I was surpised," he said. "It was a loud ovation today, especially as I was playing Richard. But when I walk down the street here, everybody recognizes me and wishes me good luck. They know why I’m here, they know I’m not on holidays."
Gasquet discovered Federer wasn’t on holidays, too. He lost 6-2, 6-4. Federer, who insists his focus is on winning this tournament, which he has yet to do, rather than the ATP Finals, plays Juan Monaco next. In the US Open this year Federer beat Monaco 6-1, 6-2, 6-0.