For Now, a Small Fish in Big Pond


Go Fish.

That’s one play on words--and probably hundreds to go--out of the way. Mardy Fish, born in Minnesota and raised in Vero Beach, Fla., doesn’t avoid the name game. After all, he is scheduled to train (just for fun) with the Miami Dolphins fairly soon.

Fish, though, is a tennis player. The 19-year-old is starting to gain recognition, gradually showing that there may be another option beyond Andy Roddick for the future of American men’s tennis.

Fish defeated Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina and Thomas Enqvist of Sweden last week to reach the quarterfinals in Scottsdale, Ariz. He eventually lost to Magnus Norman of Sweden, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, but was encouraged by his progress against a top-five player.


“It’s coming together,” Fish said. “It’s great to be able to play these kind of guys to see how I can do. I had a lot of chances in the first set [against Enqvist]. This is great for my confidence.”

Late last year, he began working with Brad Stine, who once coached Jim Courier, and has put on 17 pounds through off-court training.

His original coach was his father, Tom. They decided to change that arrangement when Fish turned 14.

“A coach has to be hard on a player and he was never hard on me,” Fish said. “We get along. But a coach has to be firm and it was hard for me to take it when he was. He’s a sweet guy.”


Fish, who received a wild-card entry into the Tennis Masters Series at Indian Wells, will play former champion Mark Philippoussis of Australia in the first round, which starts Monday. The most intriguing first-round match in the men’s draw appears to be Australian Patrick Rafter against Greg Rusedski, a rematch of the 1997 U.S. Open final. That was the first of Rafter’s consecutive U.S. Open titles. Rusedski, of Great Britain, has not returned to a Grand Slam final since then but had an extraordinary start to 2001.

He retooled his game and defeated Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil in the Australian Open, Marat Safin of Russia at Milan, Italy, and Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and Andre Agassi at San Jose. He was the first player to beat Agassi this year.

They are in the same half of the draw as third-seeded Pete Sampras, who lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open and has not won a match since.

Sampras, a winner here in 1994 and 1995, has not fared well in Indian Wells lately. He will play David Prinosil of Germany in the first round. The fourth-seeded Agassi, the Australian Open champion, will face Hicham Arazi of Morocco in the first round, a rematch of a first-round match here last year. Arazi beat Agassi and went on to reach the quarterfinals.

Defending champion Alex Corretja of Spain is in the same half of the draw as Sampras, Rafter and the top-seeded Kuerten. Agassi is on the other side with No. 2 Safin, No. 5 Norman and No. 6 Hewitt. Russian officials said last week that Safin probably would sit out the Indian Wells event because of an injury, but he was scheduled to arrive Saturday night.


On the women’s side, one seeded player lost in second-round action Saturday. Australian qualifier Evie Dominikovic beat ninth-seeded Nathalie Tauziat of France, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. The 20-year-old Dominikovic broke into the top 100 this year when she reached the third round at the Australian Open.

Seventh-seeded Serena Williams defeated Adriana Geri of the Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2, in her first tournament since reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.



Tennis Masters Series

* Where: Indian Wells Tennis


* When: Women’s play continues today, with the final Saturday; men begin play Monday, with the final March 18.

* Today’s featured matches (starting at 10 a.m. on the Stadium Court): Venus Williams vs. Gala Leon Garcia, Spain; Serena Williams vs. Cara Black, Zimbabwe; Lindsay Davenport vs. Anne-Gaelle Sidot, France; Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario vs. Nathalie Dechy, France.

* Tickets: (800) 999-1585.