New York: Mardy Fish found himself dealing with all sorts of problems as he tried to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the second time.
There was the brief flap with his opponent, 11th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the chair umpire over some distracting cheering in the stands.
There were the aching right hip and hamstring that left Fish flat on his back, getting massaged by a trainer before the fifth set.
There was the pressure of knowing that he was, for the first time, the highest-ranked American at the country`s Grand Slam tennis tournament.
There was the whipping wind that sent shots this way and that.
And then, of course, there was Tsonga, the big-hitting, athletic Frenchman, who feels more confident than ever — and it shows. The eighth-seeded Fish wasted a lead and lost the fourth-round match at Flushing Meadows 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday night, bringing what he saw as a premature end to what he hoped would be a run to a major semifinal.
"This might have been my best chance so far," the 29-year-old Fish said, knowing that he played well all summer on the type of hard courts used at the U.S. Open, including one title, two other appearances in finals and a victory over Rafael Nadal.
"For whatever reason — old age, I guess — my body didn`t check up like I had hoped," said Fish, who limped out of his news conference. "Look, that`s not why I lost. But it would have been nice to be able to run without pain."
Tsonga reached his first U.S. Open quarterfinal, but unlike Fish, he`s already tasted this sort of success. Tsonga made it to the final of the 2008 Australian Open before losing to Novak Djokovic, and got to the Wimbledon semifinals this year — where he again lost to Djokovic — by stunning Roger Federer after dropping the first two sets of their quarterfinal.
There could be a Grand Slam rematch in New York, because Tsonga next plays either 16-time major champion Federer or Juan Monaco, whose fourth-round match was scheduled for later Monday night.
Djokovic, meanwhile, extended his 2011 record to 61-2 by beating No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-6 (14), 6-4, 6-2. Their 16-14 tiebreaker in the first set lasted nearly a half-hour all on its own, with Djokovic saving four set points and finally converting his sixth when Dolgopolov pushed a forehand long to close a 13-stroke exchange.
Both men called that tiebreaker the key to the match. One tiny piece of evidence: Dolgopolov double-faulted twice in the opening game of the second set to get broken, and Djokovic was on his way.
Asked whether he considered winning that energy- and will-testing tiebreaker to be a physical or mental triumph, Djokovic replied: "Combination of both. But in the end, it was more mental, just to hang in there, try to play right shots at the right time."
Djokovic now meets his Serbian Davis Cup teammate and buddy Janko Tipsarevic, who is seeded 20th and made it to the first Grand Slam quarterfinal of his career by beating 2003 French champion and U.S. Open runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in a match that lasted more than 3½ hours.
"Strange feeling," Djokovic said. "We are professionals. Certainly we both want to win the match when we play against each other. So you kind of forget about friendship. You put that aside."
Pretty much everyone who played Monday complained about the wind, which gusted at up to 20 mph and kept changing directions, making even serve tosses difficult.
Serena Williams handled those conditions much better than former No. 1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic and beat her 6-3, 6-4 to return to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time in 14 months. She missed about 11 of those with a series of health scares but looks really good so far at the U.S. Open.
No. 10 Andrea Petkovic of Germany reached her third major quarterfinal of the year with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. Next for Petkovic will be No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki or 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Against Ivanovic, Williams hit nine aces overall, only lost serve once, and finished off the match with four consecutive unreturned serves that ranged from 99 to 111 mph.
"I didn`t even go for winners at any point," said Williams, who hit only 16. "I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was definitely tough."
She`s seeded only 28th because of all of that time away, but now has won her past 16 matches heading into a quarterfinal against No. 17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia. Pavlyuchenkova got past 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in a match with 21 double-faults and 16 service breaks in 31 games.
"I`m going to say that I don`t want to go out there and enjoy just being on center court playing against Serena," Pavlyuchenkova said. "I would like to do well, try to fight, and with my effort, I`ll try to beat her."
First Published: Tuesday, September 06, 2011, 08:39