Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Fish story takes new turn at Open

Has new batch of fans in 'Freaks'

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Mardy Fish has a following all his own at the U.S. Open - the "Fish Freaks."

They are six shirtless men who showed up for Fish's opening match Monday in Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing rubber fish hats over their heads and faces. Each person painted one letter on his chest so together they spelled G-O F-I-S-H. They hollered all through the match.

"They were great," said the 24th-seeded Fish, who beat Sweden's Joachim Johansson 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. "It's cool to get recognition for your tennis. I don't think that has all to do with my tennis. I think it has a lot to do with my last name."

Fish's friends all live in the New York area and found each other online when 26-year-old Doug Akin placed an Internet ad in hopes of assembling a group of Fish fanatics.

Thomas Jennings, 24, is a waiter and aspiring actor. Brody Railton is a 22-year-old record store clerk. Akin runs a marketing company.

Skylar Mulhare, 30, is a media consultant in Manhattan. Kristian Hansen is a 20-year-old ancient studies major at Columbia University who's originally from San Francisco. Evan Genest, 38, is a high school chemistry teacher in the Bronx.

"We don't know each other. We converged spontaneously," he said, chuckling.

Some played competitive tennis, some just like to watch it. They met just before Fish's match.

"We thought it would be great to show our support and spirit," Hansen said. "It's a fun way to be loud and obnoxious."

Fish's family and friends enjoyed the show. His mother, Sally, helped get the group together to meet Fish later Monday.

"Congrats, man," one Fish Freak said.

Fish smiled, then signed some autographs and posed for pictures with his new fan club.

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Fish story takes new turn at Open
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Tuesday's sports on TV, radio