I just caught up with the retired American Todd Martin to talk about the Mardy Fish-Rafael Nadal match later tonight.
Martin has been in Fish’s shoes a million times: playing someone who is clearly very much better than him, needing to figure out a way to grind his way to a victory.
When I asked him about it, Martin said the match-up favors Fish more than one might think.
Observer: What are your thoughts on Nadal-Fish?
Martin: It seems fairly clear that this court is the quickest of the four Grand Slams, which is only good for Mardy’s sake primarily because the point can start well off his serve. He’ll have to commit to attacking Rafael’s second serve. Mardy, during this tournament, and last week as well, has done a great job of not passing up opportunities to attack. Within reason, that’s what has to happen against Nadal. There should be some balance here and there, but he has to make himself an imposing figure at the net.
Observer: You were so good at having a mental advantage against your opponents. Is that what Fish needs tonight?
Martin: I think it’s a different match in the quarterfinals as opposed to the first or second round. Mardy is playing with house money. He’s doing so much better than he ever has here. And he’s done it by having a tremendous attitude and a real positive feel for his tennis. And I don’t see any reason why that would change.
Observer: So you think it’s evenly matched?
Martin: It’s most evenly matched here. I don’t think Mardy can have a better court to play on. The way I’ve seen matches go it’s a quick enough court for him to find himself some opportunities. If he serves well enough, it frees him up to play the rest of the game aggressively.
Observer: So are you picking Fish?
Martin: I would love to see Mardy play well, and I think he’s in the right situation. I don’t think Nadal is as fresh and he is not, especially yesterday, as good as he can be. And Mardy is as good as he’s been in a long time, right now. And the court suits him very well. But at the end of the day, Nadal is still No. 1 in the world and proven to be better everybody else, and Mardy’s not. So you’d have to say Nadal is the favorite. If it gets going in the right way for Mardy, it can very easily continue to go in the right way.