LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Mardy Fish has been the top-ranked American tennis player for almost three months now and he's getting more comfortable in that role. In a sense, though, he feels more like the caretaker to the throne than its occupant.
"Andy (Roddick) in my opinion is always going to be top dog of our generation," said Fish, who is No. 9 in the ATP World Tour rankings and the top seed in this week's Farmers Classic at the Los Angeles Tennis Center-UCLA.
"It's hard to think that just because of four or five or six months that I'm ahead of him (in the rankings) you can say that over a 10-year period I've had a better career. That's not accurate. He's gone through a lot more stress as far as (being asked) why American tennis isn't better. He's had the brunt of the questions for the most part so I'm happy to maybe take a little bit on my shoulders."
Fish, who won his sixth career title at Atlanta on Sunday, did interviews and signed autographs while the first round of the tournament concluded Tuesday. He'll play his first match here on Thursday, against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who beat reigning NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson of Southern California 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
UCLA's Daniel Kosakowski, the No. 1 player for the Bruins as a freshman, advanced to the second round by beating fellow qualifier Tim Smyczek 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, and then turned professional. Ernests Gulbis of Latvia upset No. 5 seed Xavier Malisse of Belgium 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5); Ryan Harrison of the U.S. overcame Richard Bernakis of Lithuania 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-3; Igor Kunitsyn of Russia ousted Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-4, 6-3; Alex Bogomolov Jr. of the U.S. topped Greg Jones of Australia 4-6, 6-1, 6-1; and Alejandro Falla of Colombia beat Laurynas Gregelis of Lithuania 6-2, 6-4.
Fish, who revived his career by focusing on diet and fitness after a severe knee injury in the fall of 2009, is eligible to be called a late bloomer, and that has given the 29-year-old the perspective necessary to wear the mantle of No. 1, too.
"Something like playing Davis Cup, being on the team with him (Roddick) and playing the No. 1 spot, I've never done that before, so that's different," Fish said. "All these experiences are different for me. Being the No. 1 seed at a few events this summer. I've never done that before. These are all new experiences for me. "I'm lucky to be old enough to sort of step back and realize where I am (in his career) and where I am in the rankings and a little more mature where I can understand what I'm doing."