US men's tennis reeling from a lack of stars

Mardy Fish's No 9 world ranking says more about the state of the men's game in the US than it does about Fish.

Mardy Fish is currently the highest ranked American in the world at No 9.
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Which name does not belong? Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish …

If this were a sports intelligence test, the question would not be among the difficult material.

The first seven names belong to American men who were ranked No 1 in the world during the past 35 years. The other is Mardy Fish.

Fish, however, belongs among that esteemed company for this reason: like the others, he has been the highest-ranked American in the world. He holds that distinction right this moment.

That his ranking is an interesting but not world-beating No 9 says more about the state of US tennis than it does about Fish.

He notched his sixth career ATP championship on Sunday, defeating his compatriot John Isner 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 in the final of the Atlanta Tennis Championships.

The victory almost certainly does not presage a charge toward the top of the rankings. Fish is almost 30, is six of 12 in career finals and one in 18 in matches against Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

He is a solid professional, with career earnings of US$5.5 million (Dh20.2m), but he is no Sampras nor even a Roddick, now ranked No 12.

What do we know about the world's top-ranked American?

He comes from Minnesota. His father is a teaching tennis professional who moved the family to Florida so Mardy could work on his game in that tennis hotbed.

He has a big serve, likes to come to the net and has beaten Andy Murray four times in seven meetings. His best performance in a grand slam is the quarter-finals, which he accomplished most recently at Wimbledon, where he managed to take a set off Nadal.

Fish lives in Los Angeles with his wife, a lawyer, and is very fond of their two-year-old dachshund, Charlie.

Fish has been known to change his playing schedule on occasions so that he can get back to see Charlie. "She's pretty spoiled," he has said.

Fish is not comfortable with the mantle of "best American", but he does like being in the upper echelon of tennis. "I want to stay in the top 10 for as long as I can and keep bettering my career-high ranking and do things I've never done before," he said in Atlanta.

"Today is one of them because I had never defended a title before, so it's another milestone for me."

This week in tennis

Men’s tour this week

Gilles Simon, of France, ranked No 18, defeated the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to win the German Open in Hamburg, his second championship this season and the ninth of his career. Also, Mardy Fish, the No 9-ranked American, defeated compatriot John Isner 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 to win the Atlanta Tennis Championships.

ATP rankings
Player Country Points
1. N Djokovic SRB 13,155
2. R Nadal ESP 11,270
3. R Federer SUI 9,530
4. A Murray GBR 6,855
5. R Soderling SWE 4,325

Women's tour this week
Vera Zvonavera, the world No 3, defeated her Russian compatriot Ksenia Pervak 6-1, 6-4 to win at Baku, the newest stop on the WTA tour. It was the Muscovite's 12th title and first since winning at Doha in February. Pervak, 20, was playing her first final this year.

WTA rankings
Player Country Points
1. C Wozniacki DEN 9,915
2. K Clijsters BEL 7,625
3. V Zvonareva RUS 6,850
4. V Azarenka BLR 6,465
5. M Sharapova RUS 6,141

Farmers Classic
Place: Los Angeles
Duration: until Sunday
Prize money: US$700,000 (Dh2.6m)
Surface: hard
Defending champion: Juan Martin del Potro

Bank of the West Classic
Place: Stanford, California
Duration: until Sunday
Prize money: $721,000
Surface: hard
Defending champion: Victoria Azarenka


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