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August 22, 2008

Mardy Fish


M. FISH/F. Verdasco
6-0, 1-6, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Fernando described it as a very strange match. Is that fair?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, started out great. You know, played well, pretty aggressive in the beginning. You know, had a chance there in the second game of the second set to really put him away. Funny to say 'put him away'. It was only going to be a set and a break. You know, I would have felt pretty comfortable at that spot.
I played a loose game, to say the least, the next game, just four straight shots. Gave him back. You know, got a little tighter, kind of trying to see what's going open on the other side of the court rather than taking care of your own side.

Q. Can you talk about the importance of that break in the third set?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, it was just nice to get the momentum back early. You know, kind of felt pretty much in control after I won that second game. Had a couple breakpoints there against and came up with a couple big serves. Came to the net, made a nice volley on the other one.
You know, so that was nice to consolidate that break, you know, work hard to try to get a second one. You know, you feel like -- I feel like with, you know, my serve and my serve game, if I can get two breaks in a set, I'll feel pretty comfortable. Against someone like Fernando, he can hit four straight winners with his forehand, you know, break anybody at any time. So you don't feel as comfortable with one break. I was lucky enough to get that at 5-3 and not have to serve it out.

Q. Knowing how well you played here last year and the conditions and so forth, did you look at the draw before this tournament and kind of picture yourself, thinking, I could go really far this week?
MARDY FISH: Uhm, well, you know, you kind of look at who your seeds are. You don't necessarily look at what side you're on or who's any further than a few rounds.
I saw Del Potro was in my quarter. You know, so the way he's hitting the ball, didn't really feel too comfortable with that. You know, he pulled out, gave me a nice opportunity to play someone who had been in their first quarterfinal of their career in Levine, get that match under my belt. You know, kind of the not really have the pressure on me any more playing today's match.

Q. Some players talk about how it's often quite difficult, when they've won a 6-Love set, to keep the momentum going. What's difficult about it?
MARDY FISH: Well, it was difficult to, you know, kind of stay on my side today. You know, didn't really look like Fernando was wanting to be out there. I don't think that's any secret. You know, you almost -- it's almost like playing someone who's injured. You know, they're kind of going for broke and they don't have much to lose. Kind of got an excuse. You know, so that was -- that was tough.
You know, it was tough to stay on my side. I think that was the key. It would have been nice to do that a little bit better.

Q. When you've won a 6-Love set and then even if you lose a couple of games at the start, even if it's still on serve, does it start playing with your mind a bit?
MARDY FISH: I think it can if you make it, if you let it be. But I don't think I would have done that. It would have obviously been nice to get that early break in the second set. You know, just stopped being aggressive, stopped coming to the net. Didn't really serve too great in that second set. Kind of just got back to fundamentals in the third.

Q. Is there a reason you play well here?
MARDY FISH: I don't know. You know, the courts are quick, and they stay pretty low. They take the serve pretty good. You know, I feel like if I can serve pretty well, that's a nice court to be on for me. You know, a faster hard court, you know, one where I can hit my groundstrokes pretty aggressively even through the middle of the court and still, you know, be successful.
You know, I like playing the week before slams. I don't like, you know, how hectic the slams are. The leading up, it can be pretty daunting, you know, just practicing every day at any slam the week before. You're just so anxious to get the tournament underway. You know, I've got my mind here. I haven't honestly really thought about much over there, which is nice.

Q. Last year you came here, James was creating lot of buzz, Nikolay was a top 10 player. You flew under the radar. Is it a different feeling this year without as many names, you're the American?
MARDY FISH: Not really. I mean, you know, I've always sort of flown under the radar. You know, I've never been higher than the third-ranked American ever. And I've seen as high as 17 in the world. I've spent my entire career as that third guy, that next guy to play Davis Cup, you know, the next guy if one guy doesn't want to play or something, you know. So I've always been, you know, like this my entire career.
I mean, I don't get too -- you know, I don't have to do the press conferences before tournaments and things like that that those guys do.

Q. The summer's kind of been up and down a little bit. You had a great semifinal run in Los Angeles, but then Canada, Cincinnati, L.A., Washington first round. What's been working well here this week?
MARDY FISH: Well, I think it was, you know, I played every week. The summer didn't start great, but it was nice to win a few matches in L.A. Went to D.C. knowing that I still had that one and then two more important ones to go in the summer. You know, didn't really show up too well in that first-round match.
I went home immediately the next morning, took four days off of everything. Basically sat on my couch for four days and kind of didn't really think about tennis at all, didn't watch any tennis, didn't think about it at all. Kind of came here Saturday afternoon rejuvenated. Almost felt like I had the week off. I think that was a nice thing, you know, even though I played every week and I have lost three first rounds, you know, this result here and the result in L.A. surely rectify the summer.

Q. Have you had a chance to watch the other two semifinalists play at all this week? I know you've never played them. Do you know anything about them at all?
MARDY FISH: Well, obviously you know some about Cilic. I've never played him before, you know. But he's a top-30 player, or whatever his ranking is, around 30. He's a young guy. He's been doing real well this year. I think he beat Andy in Toronto to make the quarterfinals there. So he certainly is good on hard courts, comfortable. I think he did well at Wimbledon as well and can play on most surfaces. So I think, you know, if he gets through, he'll obviously be the tougher of the two, being certainly more experienced than Luka.
You know, so I would think that he would get through and I would have to play him tomorrow. But crazier things have happened. That's why they play (smiling).

Q. This result here, talk about the impact it will have after the US Open of getting you into some of the bigger events?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, you know, Madrid and Paris are six weeks -- Madrid is six weeks from Monday. So this is a big result for me to keep my ranking in the top 40, top 35 to make sure I'm in those tournaments. You know, those are the toughest ones to get in in the entire year, the top 40 get into those. If you're 42 in the world, you've got to go to qualifying, which is pretty amazing.
That's one of the things I like about those tournaments, is that I've played them a few times, gotten the opportunity to play those. Obviously they're great tournaments. Big points, big money in those tournaments. That's kind of the big time. That's kind of where you want to be.

Q. I believe there were 19 players in this field who were in Beijing last week at the Olympics. Quite a few, like James Blake, couldn't make it here. Is there a certain value to you having made it to the finals here, knowing the past accomplishments of a lot of these guys?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, I mean, you know, I chose not to go to the Olympics, you know, because I kind of wanted to play near home. L.A. is kind of a second home for me now. You know, knowing that the travel was going to be real tough if those guys, I think, as you said, there were 19 men's singles guys. You know, that's tough travel. I'm sure that they would love a break after something like that, something as hectic as the Olympics.
You know, I was able to, you know, pretty much get the feel for pretty much everything that the Olympics has to offer last time. I think medaling last time and obviously going made my decision a little bit easier to not go. I feel like I almost had my opportunity last time, you know, to get the gold medal. I'm not sure if I'm going to get a better opportunity than that. So that made my decision a little bit easier to stay close to home, keep the travel at a minimum, play the tournaments that I enjoy.

Q. You've really created quite a little fan base for yourself here in New Haven. Do you feel that?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, sure. You know, I think it helps to be -- obviously to be American and to be close to James. I think everyone knows that. It was fun certainly to play last year in the final here, to play with him. You see when you're driving in, they have those posters, billboards, whatever, just the picture of the crowd.
I can tell that it's James and I on that. You know, it's absolutely packed. You've got the ball kids running out with the American flags, stuff like that. So I have great memories from last year here. Certainly this year as well. It's been a nice couple years, for sure. You know, so I think it helps to play on center court every time, you know, to play some night matches, play some day matches so people can recognize you.

Q. That being the case, how pleased are you to have won this match today and make it to another final here?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, you know, another opportunity. My second final this year. Another opportunity to win an American hard court tournament. Which I think is probably my best surface. Obviously I was close in Indian Wells. To lose in three tough sets there was tough. But that was certainly a great run.
You know, here I'll obviously be playing somebody that's hot and somebody that's playing well. But, you know, it's not Djokovic or Federer, so it's certainly a nice opportunity.

Q. Does it bother you being that third American all the time or have you gotten pretty comfortable with the fact that you're always going to be James or Andy, they'll always be talking about the young, up-and-coming players?
MARDY FISH: I'm fine. I'm fine with where I'm at. I feel like I've had a nice career. I'm only 26 years old. I had one entire season completely off in 2005 with my wrist. I didn't play at all really that year. I almost feel like I'm a 25-year-old in tennis years.
You know, those guys, I mean, James is, 9 in the world, Andy is 8 in the world. It's tough. Even if I was 20 in the world, would I still be mentioned in the same breath as them? Probably not. You know, I've had some good wins, won some tournaments. Won a tournament on clay, which I didn't think I'd ever do. Beaten Federer, which I didn't think I'd ever do. I'm fine with being third. Third is pretty good.

Q. We understand that James is too big time to come watch you tomorrow. Do you think some of the J Block boys will be here to root you on?
MARDY FISH: I think it's probably important to state that James is not big time. That was just a joke. So hopefully he didn't take that too seriously.
I don't know if they'll come or not. I'll probably get a text at some point today maybe, hoping that they'll show up for tomorrow.

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