Fish cruises in straight sets at Atlanta

Mardy Fish

Mardy Fish

JOHNS CREEK -- For the most part, the first day of the main draw at the Atlanta Tennis Championships can best be described as efficient, with nearly all of the singles matches decided in straight sets.

That included the highest-seeded player in action, No. 6 Mardy Fish, who breezed his way to a 6-1, 6-2 win over James Ward on Monday at the Atlanta Athletic Club's stadium court.

It was a strong start for Fish, who won in his first hardcourt match since March and is fresh off winning his fourth career ATP World Tour title in Newport, R.I., on July 11.

"It was a nice match to get my feet wet on the hardcourts," said Fish, advancing to the second round to take on the winner of today's 4 p.m. match between local favorite Robby Ginepri of Marietta and Nick Lindahl of Australia. "Coming off ... a very successful grasscourt season for me -- apart from Wimbledon -- I played some great tennis (including the win in Newport). So, you take a lot of confidence in that.

"I feel great. It's great to be back in Atlanta."

It didn't take long after the pomp and circumstance of the tournament's opening ceremonies for Fish to get going as he needed just an hour and 21 minutes to defeat Ward.

After quickly holding serve in the opening game, the 26-year-old Fish outlasted his British opponent for six deuces to earn an early break and followed that up with a love service game for 3-0 lead.

Serving was key for both players, especially in the first set when Fish won 16 of his 19 service points. Ward struggled when forced to his second serve, winning only 31 percent of those points.

"It's important to get free points on hardcourts," said Fish, who improved to 24-11 on the season.

"I feel like I'm an aggressive style player. For me to play my best, I need free points on my serve. Obviously for that to happen, it helps to make the first serve."

Fish then added a second break two games later to cruise to the 6-1 set win in just 31 minutes.

Ward made him work harder in the second set, holding serve in the opening game and breaking Fish for the only time in the match to pull to within 4-2.

But Fish answered once again with a break, and rolled to hold serve to close out the match.

Among the other highlights in Monday's singles action were victories by the two oldest players in the field.

Unseeded 32-year-old American Michael Russell pulled of Monday's biggest first-round upset, dispatching No. 8 seed Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 6-3.

His second-round opponent will be another German, 34-year-old Ranier Schuettler, who downed Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.

Rajeev Ram of the U.S. and Illya Marchenko of Ukraine also posted straight-set victories Monday.

In other singles action, Igor Kunitsyn of Russia, Ryan Sweeting of the U.S., Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Lindahl earned the final four remaining spots into the main draw with victories in their respective qualifying bracket finals Monday.

In Monday's feature doubles match, Americans James Blake and former Georgia standout John Isner rallied from down a set to force a best-of-10-point tiebreaker for before outlasting Ginepri and Sweeting 3-6, 6-4, 10-3.

Other doubles winners Monday were Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and Russell and South African Kevin Anderson.