Fish advances in L.A., but Fleishman loses first match of year

Updated: August 5, 2008, 1:30 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- American Mardy Fish, the only seeded player in action on opening day of the Countrywide Classic, moved into the second round of the ATP Tour event with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Alejandro Falla of Colombia on Monday night.

Fish, the No. 6 seed, never lost serve and gave up only four points on serve in the second set of his 61-minute win over 121st-ranked Falla. The victory broke a string of four straight first-round losses for Fish.

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"The last few weeks have been tough to handle," said Fish, who was cheered on by close friend Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics, among others. "It's been difficult as far as putting in the work on the practice court [and having limited success]. It felt good. It's nice to get my first win on a hard court this summer."

Fish, a finalist at Indian Wells in March, said he was pleased with his overall game against the left-handed Falla.

"I served pretty well and got myself out of some tight situations in the first set and early in the second," he said. "I was returning well and hitting my forehand really well. Maybe the only thing lacking was going deep into the match and seeing how you'd react, but fortunately that wasn't necessary."

The win by Fish, No. 43 in the rankings, capped a light first day. Denis Gremelmayr of Germany beat Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-4, 6-2; Florent Serra of France defeated Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-1; and American Zack Fleishman, a surprise quafterfinalist last year, lost to Marc Gicquel 6-3, 6-0 in a 50-minute match. Fleishman said it felt like a 12-round fight.

"I was absolutely exhausted," Fleishman said after his first ATP Tour match of the year. "I felt like I would after a five-set match when it was 3-all in the first set. I'm not quite in playing shape right now."

Fleishman had been sidelined all season after seriously injuring his left shoulder in a mountain biking accident Feb. 1. He said that he and a fellow tour player went for what he thought was a normal bike ride when he suddenly found himself going down a hill.

"I actually walked the bike about three-quarters of the way down. Then I jumped on the bike and hit a rock," he said. "The tire popped and I went over the handlebars and absolutely shredded my shoulder."

The injury couldn't have come at a worse time in his career.

His quarterfinal showing here last year helped him climb to a career-high No. 127 and he was starting to make good money. But instead of building on his results, he had surgery in March and "couldn't hit a backhand until 14 days ago. It was incredibly frustrating," he said.

Fleishman, who still has six screws in the shoulder, played well enough in two matches to win a wild card entry into the tournament. But he said after losing to Gicquel that getting the wild card "may have given me false confidence.

"I was a little rustier than I hoped I would be."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press