Fish, King reach new heights in Paris
PARIS -- Tiebreaks are the 50-50 ball of tennis.
If you manage to take advantage of that inviting-but-neutral opportunity, you not only win something for yourself, but also deprive the opponent. It's a momentum-builder, almost a double victory.
On Thursday, Americans Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey found themselves in tense first-set tiebreaks. Fish won his, taking seven of eight points from Robin Haase, and danced away in straight sets. Querrey, who lost seven of nine points to Ivan Ljubicic, lost in straights.
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Meanwhile, Vania King upended Elena Baltacha of Great Britain 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to leave America with three players in the third round: King, Fish and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who plays her good friend Jelena Jankovic, the No. 10 seed, on Friday.
While Fish is the No. 10-ranked player in the world, this is a first for him at Roland Garros; in five previous appearances, he never got past the second round.
"My whole career, I obviously haven't been this consistent, winning matches on every surface and winning matches in Slams, beating players that I should beat," Fish explained. "I feel like I've done that for the better part of 12 months now.
"It's a different feeling. I enjoy it a lot more on this side of it than I do on the other," he said.
Fish said his newfound fitness -- he's dropped roughly 30 pounds since last year -- is the difference.
For King, this was a career-equaling effort in a major -- unless you count the time she sang "America the Beautiful" live and a cappella at Arthur Ashe Stadium before Andre Agassi played Marcos Baghdatis at the 2006 U.S. Open. King, who also reached the third round at the 2009 U.S. Open, had lost four of five previous matches at Roland Garros.
Querrey was not so fortunate. Still, after winning his first match ever at the French Open, a first-rounder over Philipp Kohlschreiber, he sounded fairly upbeat.
"You know, I wanted to win a match," Querrey said. "Obviously, I would have liked to have done a little more than that, but you know, that's been my best French Open ever. I have to take that away as a positive. I feel like I'm playing well. Just a couple things here and there today."
Fish's reward: He'll find himself in an uncomfortable spot on Saturday, playing a Frenchman at the French Open on the grandeur of Court Philippe Chatrier. Fish insisted he won't be unnerved.
"I feel a lot more confident than I've ever felt at previous Grand Slams -- maybe minus the U.S. Open last year -- way more fit than I've ever been, you know, or than I've been in those previous third rounds, maybe," Fish said. "I think the other third round might have been the '09 Wimbledon. I mean, I was, like, 210 pounds almost then. I was eating pizza, like, every meal.
"I feel just completely different than I did then. I was pretty satisfied to be in the third round at that point. I think I played [Novak] Djokovic in that match, and I was pretty satisfied there. So it's just a different feel."
Now, without further ado, here are four more things I know I think:
Rafael Nadal still has some convincing to do: Yes, he won in straight sets over fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (4), to advance to the third round. But nothing came easy for Rafa; Andujar held eight set points in three different games and failed to convert one. Two days after going five sets with John Isner in the first round -- for context, consider that those two dropped sets were exactly two more than he lost in seven matches en route to the title last year -- he needed 3 hours, 18 minutes to dispatch Andujar. In two matches, he has now spent 7 hours, 19 minutes on court -- a daunting number that could catch up with him in the hoped-for final against Djokovic.
... And you can say the same thing for Maria Sharapova: Remember when Sharapova was a 17-year-old phenom who ran the table at Wimbledon seven years ago? Well, this time she was nearly on the other end of that equation, facing 17-year-old Caroline Garcia. The 17-year-old French wild card was up 6-3, 4-1 before melting down in three sets. The upset of No. 3 seed Kim Clijsters, who Sharapova might have seen in the quarterfinals, creates a little more space.
Petra Kvitova has what it takes to win here: She won another relatively easy match, against Zheng Jie, and next faces King, a surprise in the third round. Kvitova, a lefty, has massive groundstrokes and a serve that fellow Czech Martina Navratilova really likes. How's that for an endorsement?
Djokovic versus Juan Martin del Potro will not be even remotely close: We've seen some of the stars struggle here already, but Djokovic is dialed in. He'll win Friday's highly anticipated third-round match in three sets.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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