There was a time in the not-so-distant past that there were obvious American male contenders in tennis.
People would and could easily say Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe or Pete Sampras was favored to win the US Open or Wimbledon.
But in recent years, we have seen the definite contender list dwindle to some possible potentials. Of course, there’s Andy Roddick (who in recent years just does not seem to measure up to expectations), and we have some up-and-comers (John Isner, Ryan Harrision, etc.) that have been discussed here on Bleacher Report.
But, the question remains. Currently, who is America’s best option in men’s tennis to capture a win on the Grand Slam stage?
There’s talk that there seems to be a serious option in Mardy Fish. How serious is he and how does he stack up against the competition? Let’s have a discussion.
Though he had early successes in his career (silver medal 2004 Summer Olympics and winning in singles and doubles), in these last few years, we have seen somewhat of a late-stage metamorphosis in Fish.
As we all know, following a serious knee surgery back in 2009, Fish reinvented himself in a sense. He dropped 30 lbs or so, taking him below the 200-lb mark, and he continues to maintain that weight through an intense nutritional and physical regimen.
As a result of these changes, we have seen some of the best tennis that Fish has played. In fact, in April of this year, Fish became America’s No. 1 men’s player, surpassing Andy Roddick. Wimbledon 2011 was an excellent example of why Fish is now America’s No. 1.
During the tournament, through four rounds, Fish was only broken once. Between the fourth round and the quarterfinal round (playing Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal, respectively), Fish made 37 aces to their combined 12. Yes, you did read that correctly. The men’s World No. 1 at the time, Rafael Nadal, was included in those figures.
And speaking of Nadal, though he did not win, Fish forced a four-setter against him. Another phenomenal fact during Wimbledon was Fish's first serve percentage against Berdych was an amazing 91 percent.
Based upon just this tournament performance, I think that there's enough evidence of how well he's playing to say that Fish seems to definitely be America’s greatest contender. But how serious of a contender he is and how he stacks up against the competition is solely based on how well he is playing. And in order for him to be a competitive and successful player, there are a few things that have to be taken in consideration :
1. Fish has to mentally accept where he is
Though Fish is ranked No. 1 on paper, I don't think he fully embraces it mentally. My interpretation is he he doesn't fully believe in himself, and he feels that by actually settling in and embracing this position, it is a disrespect to his fellow American and friend, Andy Roddick. A recent ESPN story highlights how he regards Roddick in terms of his tennis career.
He has to believe and know that his American ranking was not given to him, he earned it. Right now, he is simply playing better than Roddick.
2. He has to maximize his serve and backhand
We all know that Fish has two genuine weapons—his serve and his backhand. If he can maximize using them during tournaments, I feel this will be a major contributor to beginning to see some additional activity in the win column.
3. Consistently playing at his winning level
Fish has a flaw of playing well for a period of time and then all of sudden, his level of play dwindles. He goes from hot to cold.
In the Farmer's Classic final on yesterday, Fish pulled out a win in the first set but dropped the next two and thus lost the tournament. Based upon how he was playing and being ranked as the No. 1 seed, he was the favorite to win the tournament.
He works hard and gets within site of the finish line, but he falls short more times than reaching it.
4. The person on the other side of the net is just another opponent
In a nutshell, don’t be intimidated by the opponent—another mental hurdle that I think he has to overcome.
As much as I am a Rafa fan and I want to see him win, I really felt as though Fish might have had a chance to take it to five sets at Wimbledon (I applaud him for the four-setter), based on how he had played leading up to that match.
I think that Fish may have been intimidated a little by his opponent and it may be something that he has faced before, resulting in some of his losses.
I do believe Fish is currently America’s greatest hope in men’s tennis. However, if he is to truly shine, he has to focus on those four key points mentioned above. And as we have watched him, he had overcome them or he would not have been playing the way he has. But, the key is to stay on top of them and stay focused.
Otherwise, American tennis fans will have to continue to reminisce of days gone by when it was unheard of to not have an American man in the latter stages, and more often than not, in the finals of tennis tournaments throughout the year.
We'll have our next look at Fish in the upcoming US Open. American eyes will be watching in anticipation of some good tennis action from their No. 1 and World No. 8 (as of today August 1) player.
What are your thoughts? Is Fish the best American contender? If not, who is your choice and why?
Do leave your comments below.