The US Open, the last major of 2011, begins Monday. While the vast majority of the attention will be focused on the top four players, there is one player, seeded 8th, best in his country, looking to make one final run at a major title. It is, of course, Mardy Fish, age 29, who is in the midst of a career resurgence. For many years Fish was the understudy to Andy Roddick who could never reach his full potential, due to injuries, a lack of conditioning, and some very poor luck. For many years it looked as if that would be his legacy, a talented player who could never put it all together. Well, he has, and at a very late age for a tennis player. Very rarely do you see a player make a push into the top ten at such a late age in his career. Several things have converged for Fish to make this possible. First, he got married, which can affect tennis players in different ways. Some, like Pete Sampras, lost their edge and hunger, and never reached the heights they could in the past. For others, however, it motivates them, gives them stability, and generally increases their play. For Fish, it has clearly been the latter. Another way Fish rededicated himself to his game was through fitness. He has always been known as having poor fitness, but with his wife's help, he went on a strict diet, lost a lot of weight, and became a much more all around player.
Last year was his reintroduction to the tennis world, but this year has been his best year of his career. Since the French Open, he reached the Quarterfinals at Wimbledon, won Atlanta, was a finalist in Los Angeles, finalist in Montreal, and a semifinalist in Cincinnati. He defeated Rafael Nadal for the first time in his career at Cincinnati, and took Djokovic to a tough three sets in Montreal. All of this will be for naught, however, if he doesn't make a deep run at the US Open. It is his home Major, at the biggest one of them all, and now he has the results for the general tennis watching population to believe that he has a shot to win the tournament. He readily acknowledges he is approaching the end of his career, and this will be one of the last great chances he has. We'll have a full preview up Sunday, but he does have a good draw, and a potential quarterfinal with the suddenly slumping Roger Federer. If he fails to make a deep run, he runs the risk of being lumped in with the Robin Soderlings, the David Ferrers, and the Tomas Berdych's of the world, all solid top ten players who have no chance of winning majors. If you're looking for an American to latch your hopes onto, Fish is your man. It should be fascinating to watch.