Simply playing is his reward

Special to The Times

Zack Fleishman walked off the Straus Stadium court a loser Monday, after falling to Marc Gicquel, 6-3, 6-0, in the first round of the Countrywide Classic at UCLA. After the match he was so tired, he said he felt as if he’d fought a 12-round boxing match, yet the match lasted only 50 minutes.

“I felt like I got absolutely exhausted out there,” Fleishman said. “I was able to hold it at three-all and then I feel like how I feel normally in a five-set match at three-all in the first set.”

But for the former UCLA player, just getting on court and playing was what mattered. He has been recovering from a shoulder injury, and two weeks ago he hit a backhand for the first time in months.

“Of course it was an extremely disappointing performance,” he said, “but to be honest I don’t know what more I could’ve done given the time frame that I had coming off this injury. I did about as much as I could.”


In early February, Fleishman went for a bike ride with a fellow pro in Palos Verdes and he found himself mountain biking down a hill, something he had no experience doing.

After walking down the first three-quarters of the hill, he said, he hopped on the bike. On his way down he hit a rock and his tire popped, sending him flying in front of his bike.

The damage to his left shoulder was so bad, doctors told him, that had it been his right shoulder, his career would have been over. Instead, he had surgery in March and then began rehabilitating the injury.

The timing was particularly poor for Fleishman because he had reached a career high in the rankings in November, an accomplishment aided by his run to the quarterfinals at UCLA last year.


Fleishman trained for only two weeks before this event, but he won the qualifying tournament to earn a wild-card berth. His lack of conditioning showed when, from 3-3 in the first set, he dropped the final nine games.

“I felt like I was going to be rusty coming into this tournament, but then I think I had a little false sense of confidence [from] winning that wild-card tournament,” Fleishman said. “I think I’m a little bit rustier than I could’ve hoped for.”

Fleishman’s was one of just four singles matches Monday. Denis Gremelmayr, Florent Serra and sixth-seeded Mardy Fish joined Gicquel in the second round.



Featured matches

Today at the Countrywide Classic:

* Noon -- Wayne Odesnik vs. Bobby Reynolds

* Followed by -- Vincent Spadea vs. Sebastien Grosjean


* Not before 4 p.m. -- John Isner vs. Marat Safin

* Not before 7 p.m. -- Donald Young vs. Tommy Haas

* Followed by -- Carlos Moya vs. Xavier Malisse