Cincinnati: Murray d. Fish
Andy Murray defeated Mardy Fish, 6-3, 7-6 (8), in one of the more grueling, topsy-turvy and eventually farcical contests we’ve seen in some time. This morning, both thought they had booked Center Court to practice at 11 a.m. (Murray got the court, by virtue of having arrived first.) It should have been a hot-blooded contest. It wasn’t quite.
Fish came into the match as the form player, but he seemed flat after the emotional high of his win over Rafael Nadal and was broken in his second service game—the first time he had been broken all week. Despite some struggles on his own serve, Murray dominated the first set fairly easily from there, seemingly enjoying the cleft stick he had the American trapped in. Fish was losing every long rally from the baseline, as Murray forced him to attempt to generate pace on the forehand, and he succeeded only in generating errors. But if he came to the net on anything other than a perfect approach shot, Murray punished Fish by punching the ball past him. Murray came to net just once in the opening set, at deuce when he was attempting to serve it out; it was enough to allow him to seal a dominant set.
One might have expected Murray to kick on from there. Instead the second set devolved into a war of attrition that proved the adage, ‘it’s not a break until you hold.’ Fish continued to leak errors on his forehand, snatching at floating balls and over-pressing to give up three breaks on his serve. The fact that Murray ended up still having to serve just to stay in the set—twice—cannot really be explained. He yelled, “KILL ME NOW!” after a particularly egregious miss midway through the set, but refused to commit disaster despite flirting with it throughout. Having been unable to consolidate a lead, in the tiebreak Murray adopted a different tactic and twice went down a mini break to Fish—both times after a weak second serve allowed the American into the rally—before recovering to find two big first serves for his first match point. Fish saved that one with a clean backhand winner hit straight through Murray, but on his second chance at 7-8, the Brit hit a high, looping forehand return off Fish’s second serve that looked like it clipped the outside of the line. The umpire called the match for Murray, and Fish’s Hawkeye challenge seemed like a formality, with both men at the net and chatting. But in fittingly farcical fashion, Hawkeye showed the ball out. Murray laughed. It was that or cry.
One last forehand error from Fish a couple points later finally gave the win to Murray and some much-needed rest to Fish before the U.S. Open. Murray advances to the final, and he will have to do much, much better when he gets there.