Mardy Fish and Mark Knowles fought back in the final of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic overcoming Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek 4-6,7-6,10-7 to bag their second title as a team.
Berdych and Stepanek sprinted to a 3-0 advantage by breaking Knowles and Fish twice in the first set. Then, with a love hold, Stepanek further extended their lead to 4-0. Knowles and Fish managed to break once. Nevertheless, with the insurance break, the Czechs took the set.
Knowles and Fish have been a tandem since February 2008 while their Czech counterparts usually play doubles only in the Davis Cup. Moreover, for Berdych and Stepanek, this was their first ATP doubles final as a team. Thus, Knowles and Fish called upon their experience to weather the storm especially after Knowles double faulted in the second set to give their opponents a 3-2 edge which they consolidated for 4-2. Later though, with Berdych serving at 40-30, Fish struck a forehand down the line winner to force a deciding point. With Berdych double faulting, the set was squared at 4 all. Ultimately, a tiebreaker was played.
Off a sensational forehand return by Fish, Stepanek dumped the forehand volley in the net. Down the road, Fish made another volley winner to give his team a double mini-break for 5-2. Next, on a miscue from the Czechs, Knowles and Fish had three set points. Stepanek and Berdych battled back for 6 all. Subsequently, on an error, Stepanek and Berdych were at 7-6 and championship point. Again, Fish and Knowles produced some remarkable shots to stay afloat and steal the tiebreaker.
In the super-tiebreaker, with Berdych’s backhand sailing long, Knowles and Fish had a mini-break for 1-0. On a Fish forehand error, Berdych and Stepanek got back on serve for 3-4. But, with a net court favoring Fish and Knowles, that pair regained a mini-break for 5-3. Again, the Czechs climbed back to make it 7 all. Soon, on a superb return by Fish, Stepanek flubbed the volley giving Fish and Knowles championship at 9-7. The pair won the next point to capture the trophy.
After the match, MiamiTennisNews and one other media outlet sat down to talk to Fish and Knowles. For 38 year old Knowles, this was his 53rd doubles title. Therefore, MiamiTennisNews wanted to know:
Q. At your age, what keeps you still motivated and what has been the key to your success?
Knowles: I still enjoy playing and competing . . . It’s a challenge competing against the current players. I’ve seen the game evolve a little bit from when I first started. It still gives me a high to compete at this level and win.
Q. Is it more difficult though with having a family?
Knowles: I play less now because of a wife and two kids. This year was a little difficult. I was injured at the start of the season and I was out for three months. Mardy and I have agreed to play doubles this year which is an exciting prospect. Things have taken a while to develop because of my injury but things are going well now.
Next week in Toronto, with Fish concentrating on singles, Knowles will partner with Stepanek. Thus, MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q. It must be strange having to play with Stepanek since you’ve beaten him today. How does one deal with that? Also, you’ve had a few partners, how do you select the person you want to play with?
Knowles: I look for a guy who will complement me well. Someone I get along with on and off the court. Radek is a phenomenal doubles and singles player. A big part of doubles is finding the right partner. It’s kind of awkward that we competed against each other today and play together tomorrow. But, we are all professions and get along well. We understand the nature of the business so it will be exciting next week as well.
With Andy Roddick falling in the third round at this event, for the first time since 1973, on Monday’s ranking there will be no American male in the top ten in singles. Thus, MiamiTennisNews questioned Fish about his thoughts on the matter after winning his 8th career title in doubles:
Q. What’s your feeling on that development?
Fish: It’s only going to last for one week since [Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga is injured and not playing in Toronto. So, Andy will go back to [number] 10. [Therefore], I think it’s sort of ridiculous. But with that being said, it’s such a worldly sport now, so deep. There are guys coming from all corners while [U.S.] athletes are going to play more popular sports, football, basketball. [On the other hand, with the other countries], tennis is just as big as soccer, so it’s tough.
Q. So do you feel that the state of American tennis is still healthy? Any good prospect? Ryan Harrison has been a name which has come to the surface lately?
Fish: [Harrison] is extremely young and talented. But, he has a long way to go. He has the [hunger] which is certainly a good thing. Still, Sam Querrey is playing great. Surely, Roddick would have something to say if you said he is done, he has a few years left for sure. We are all trying as hard as we can. Besides Spain, there’s no other country which has too many guys at the top. And for Spain, there’s only one in the top ten. There aren’t many spots in the top ten, so it’s hard to get there.
Knowles and Fish will reunite in Cincinnati next and plan to play at the U.S. Open. The two are currently ranked 30th and will move up after this win.