Wimbledon: Brian Baker and Mardy Fish left to carry US hopes of glory
ANDY Roddick is confident he has left American hopes of Wimbledon glory in the best possible hands.
Brian Baker and Mardy Fish carry the Stars and Stripes into the last 16 of the men’s singles after Roddick bowed out to David Ferrer on Saturday.
Neither man was expected to still be standing by the second Monday for differing reasons, but both have outlasted the likes of Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych.
For Baker, his near-anonymity and inexperience are why he was not expected to survive the first week, while for Fish illness was the concern.
Fish missed the French Open after complaining of heart palpitations – he watched it on TV while strapped into a heart monitor – and his progress through the rounds in London has been warming.
Baker’s tale of woe is a longer one, the 27-year-old having fought through a six-year injury nightmare to regain a place on the main tour. Once a promising amateur, he eventually took a job as a coach to make provisions for a premature retirement, but tomorrow he will face Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fish will go up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Roddick, a career flag-bearer for tennis in the United States and a three-time Wimbledon runner-up, has been touched by Baker’s revival, which will see him break into the top 100 after Wimbledon.
“It’s great to see. I remember Brian and he was probably the best junior I had seen,” he said. “He had all the tools, but we’re all so obsessed in our little moments that all of a sudden you think, ‘Gosh, where is that guy?’ Everyone loves a comeback story. You think of people who are off for six months and it’s tough to come back. Hell, six years, I can’t imagine that.”
Roddick is also glad to see Fish on the road to recovery. “I’m really happy for him,” Roddick said. “I was worried about him. Not worried about him for tennis, you can have tennis. I was just worried about him.”
Fish has been delighted to see Baker finally make the most of his ability. “He just fell off the map, really,” Fish said. “We knew he could play. Guys just have injuries, so you forget about them like everyone else does.
“But seven years later he’s fit and healthy again and it’s a great story. He’s a really nice kid. We forgot about him, but here he is again and it’s great.”
Away from the American contingent, the absence of Nadal from the men’s draw for the second week is a boost for those chasing the title, even if defending champion Novak Djokovic is not willing to admit it.
Nadal’s surprise loss to the unsung Lukas Rosol on Thursday means that the tournament has lost its second favourite, with the odds of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray shortening as a result But according to world No.1 Djokovic, the feeling inside the locker room is that little has changed.
“On my side, I don’t see anything,” said the 25-year-old Serbian ahead of his meeting with Viktor Troicki. “I’m not really thinking about that to be honest. This is a draw of 128 players.”
With a record 16 grand slam titles already achieved, it is inconceivable to think Federer has not allowed his mind to wander towards a possible 17th. He has to dispose of former Wimbledon semi-finalist Xavier Malisse today, though, which he knows is a tough assignment, even though he has won his last nine meetings with the Belgian.
“I think grass is his best surface,” Federer said of Malisse. “He’s a great player with great talent and reads the game extremely well.”
For his part, Murray is up against Marin Cilic having raced against the clock to beat Marcos Baghdatis in four sets last night.
One player the leading names will need to look out for is Juan Martin del Potro, who faces Ferrer. The ninth seed has made quiet progress through the draw and is starting to look more like the player who won the 2009 US Open before injuries took hold.
Grass is still far from Del Potro’s favourite surface – the 23-year-old prefers the hard courts – but he is doing his best to adapt to the turf and is hoping he can go one better than last year when he was unlucky to lose to a belligerent Nadal in round four.
“I still prefer the hard court but it’s good if I have time on grass, especially for my Olympic preparations,” Del Potro said. “I am having a good tournament and now I am going to get ready for the next round.”
The other ties pit Richard Gasquet against Florian Meyer and Denis Istomin against Mikhail Youzhny.
Kohlschreiber set up his meeting with Baker by beating Rosol, Nadal’s conqueror. Rosol caused a sensation when he sent Nadal packing last week but the previously-unsung Czech was unable to replicate that performance on Court 12, going down to German Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
Whether it was being away from the Centre Court limelight that affected him or the effectiveness of his opponent, 26-year-old Rosol has still yet to reach a grand slam fourth round in his career.
His name will long be remembered, though, and he hopes he can now start to make a more consistent impact on the main tour.
“Why not?” he asked. “I can play with anyone. That’s what I feel and also these players, when they see my name now, are going to see they can lose against me.”
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