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From Bad to Worse: Mardy Fish at The US Clay in Houston

Opportunity for Isner, Russell, Sweeting and Harrison

April 12, 2012 | 09:18 PM

Had #1 seed Mardy Fish not raised the level of his game in 2010 and 2011 to genuine Top 10 level, his loss today to 33 year old journeyman, #136 ranked American Michael Russell, 6-3, 6-1, would not be such a sign of distress. In 15 years on the tour, Russell had not beaten a top 10 player or gotten above #60. Arguably, he didn't need to do anything special today to be the last in line to give Fish a pat on the head on his way out of the Top 10, perhaps for good (he drops beneath #10 Isner, who won today to reach the quarters in Houston, and #11 Del Potro who passes him without lifting a racquet this week). How low will Mardy dip in the rankings? Will he do a Gasquet (Richard went from #7 to #72 in a little over 2 years, only in part because of a suspension for a positive drug test, appealed and overturned)? Let's not go there.

The fact that this tournie is on clay is no excuse for Fish, who won the title in '06 (his only clay title among his 6 winner's cups). His loss is an opportunity for Isner, as well as the American Ryans, Harrison (who faces Russell in the quarters) and defending champion Sweeting (who faces Isner). S. African Kevin Anderson, who beat Sam Querrey 7-6 in the 3rd, the man who has to be the favorite, #4 seed Juan Monaco, the higher ranked of 2 real clay courters in the draw (the other is #6 seed Carlos Berloq from Argentina, who faces Feliciano Lopez). Of course, these two are not playing on real clay, but America's version, which could be called lite as it is faster. But let's not go there either - we should be grateful that there is even one clay tournie on the US schedule to go along with a token grass event in Newport. Together these two US events draw among the weakest fields of the year, attracting Americans and others whose preferred surface tends to be hard courts. The US Clay is aptly named: it is a clay tournie for US players (9 of 32 in Houston). Half the winners in the past 10 years have been Americans (Agassi, Roddick (twice), Fish and Sweeting). With the 4 US players left in the draw playing each other in the quarters, two will be in opposite halves of the semis with a reasonable shot at going all the way.

For Michael Russell, a final and a title in Houston could be a career milestone, along with beating a Top 10 player: it would be his first of both. A nice story for him, though not the one the USTA would celebrate: he'd have to beat their golden boy Harrison to move on...


US Clay 2012, Houston

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