Saturday, August 16, 2003

Fish out of water after quarterfinal win

Had never advanced this far in Masters Series event

By Dustin Dow and Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Photos of Friday's matches
MASON - This week has become groundbreaking for Mardy Fish. Entering the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Fish had never advanced past the round of 32 in a Tennis Masters Series or Grand Slam.

Yet, here he is on the verge of a TMS final as he prepares for a semifinal match against Rainer Schuettler at 7 p.m. today on Center Court. Fish is trying not to look at it as anything out of the ordinary, though.

"The prize money is definitely the most I've ever gotten," Fish said. "The points are the most I've ever gotten. From a tournament standpoint, no, it doesn't feel any different. Once you get out there into the flow, it's all the same. I might say something different if I win (today) and play a final of the Masters Series. I just got off the court tonight, so it hasn't sunk in that much."

A wild-card entry in 2000, Fish didn't even get into the tournament here the past two years. But Lindner Family Tennis Center fans repeatedly chanted "Fish, Fish, Fish" Friday night as the American eliminated 14th-ranked David Nalbandian in straight sets, 7-6 (3), 6-3. The win was the second this tournament against a top-20 opponent for Fish, who beat No. 20 Mark Philippoussis in the first round.

Fish forced Nalbandian into three consecutive unforced errors to close out the first-set tiebreak, then saved two break points to begin the second set. Fish took full control of the match when Nalbandian double faulted on break point at 2-3. The Argentine then returned the ball into the net on match point.

"I felt very much in control of my serve games, and that's key for me to play well," Fish said. "I stayed as focused as I could on every serve game, and I think that ran over into the return games a little bit, and I was so focused on my serve games and I would let up a little bit. That game that I broke him, I said to myself, 'OK, now focus here and put as many returns in play as I can and see what happens.' "

MIRNYI BEATS CORIA: It took Max Mirnyi more than four hours to defeat Guillermo Coria in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

It wasn't that the match was especially competitive. The length was due to two separate rain showers. The second one, which lasted two hours, 23 minutes, interrupted play at 5-5 in the second set. The rains came down without warning, forcing Mirnyi and Coria to finish off a point that already had begun. Mirnyi won the point when Coria slipped and fell, but the chair umpire wiped it off by saying 'Let,' during the rally, although neither player heard the call because of the rain. "I was a little disappointed the point was taken away," said Mirnyi, who was told of the situation when the players reached the locker room. "Supposedly, the ref said 'Let.' I didn't hear it."

It took Mirnyi, a Belarussian who lives in Florida, all of five minutes to win the match, 6-2, 7-5, once the match resumed.

"I was ready and wanted to continue the pressing game I established in the first set," Mirnyi said. "If anything, (the rain delay) disturbed his momentum, because he likes to hit two, three, 10 balls in a rally. My game is different."

Mirnyi will meet Andy Roddick today in the semifinals.

SCHEDULE MAKER: Mirnyi is in position to determine when he will play if he advances to the final Sunday. If Mirnyi wins his semifinal singles match and semifinals doubles match today, the schedule will be: singles final at 4 p.m., with the doubles final following.

If Mirnyi is not in both finals, the doubles final will be at 1 p.m. and the singles final at 4 p.m.

CLOSING IN: Roddick has moved into third place in the year-long ATP Champions Race, passing Coria. Roger Federer is No. 1, and Juan Carlos Ferrero No. 2, but Roddick will pass them and take the points lead if he wins this event.

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