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Mardy Fish reaches quarterfinals at Farmers Classic

TENNIS

Top-seeded player and top-ranked American overcomes early frustration to defeat Gilles Muller in straight sets.

July 28, 2011|By Matt Stevens
  • Mardy Fish hits a backhand during his victory over Gilles Muller at the Farmers Classic on Thursday.
Mardy Fish hits a backhand during his victory over Gilles Muller at the Farmers… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Mardy Fish just keeps rolling along.

In his first match since winning the title in Atlanta last week, the top-seeded Fish cruised past Gilles Muller in straight sets, 7-6 (1), 6-1 at the Farmers Classic on Thursday night.

The world's No. 9-ranked player advanced to his fourth quarterfinal at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, and he's hoping to crack the semifinals for the second time in his career with a win over Igor Kunitsyn.

"This is home now for me," said Fish, a new Beverly Hills resident. "It's strange — usually we stay in hotels every week and get room service, and our beds are made. The bed's not made this week."

After a first-round bye, Fish looked a little rusty early, allowing Muller to break him in his first service game. But Fish broke back the next game and the players stayed on serve for the rest of a tightly contested first set.

On Muller's serve, the left-hander from Luxembourg initially looked better than Fish, and the American vented his frustration by slapping balls back over the net after the point was over.

The result was a tiebreaker that Fish ran away with and closed out with a deep forehand return that Muller miss-hit.

"It's dangerous, for sure," Fish said of playing after a bye. "I came out a little flat."

But Fish didn't look back after that. After closing out his final service game of the first set at love, he won the first 12 points of the second set to go up 3-0 en route to a much easier second set. He punished Muller with deep ground strokes and a serve that topped out around 135 mph.

Muller, who beat USC's Steve Johnson in the previous round, had his best chance to break Fish in the fifth game of the second set with a double break point, but Fish fought back and won the game.

Fish closed out the match with a break and an easy hold to end his evening in less than 90 minutes. His final forehand winner down the line put an exclamation point on the decisive win.

With James Blake making his exit the previous night, the crowd got behind Fish. As the top player in a country that has only four players in the top 50, Fish dismissed the notion that there's anything wrong with American tennis

"I can't do anything about it," Fish said. "That's the same question Andy [Roddick] probably got. The guy's been in the top 10 for 10 straight years … and he's doing his part. Don't ask him, ask us."

Fish said he has lost 30 pounds, which has helped him play and win more consistently. He's set for a potential semifinal meeting with 19-year-old Ryan Harrison, who faces Yen-Hsun Lu in the quarterfinals. After that, he could face second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in the final.

If he plays like he did Thursday night, he could keep rolling all the way to the U.S. Open.

"Winning is contagious," Fish said. "When you do it you want more of it. It's like a drug. You can get addicted."

matthew.stevens@latimes.com

twitter.com/mattstevensLAT

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