As with the majority of his matches over the past year, the fitness of Mardy Fish will be the key determinant of this match.
Matthew Ebden reached the second round in Atlanta last week after Ivo Karlovic’s retirement. He was able to take a set off Kevin Anderson before succumbing in three sets, but is still a pretty average player overall. He will have to improve his serve from his qualifying win over Saketh Myneni, where he hit just 43% of first serves, but he will take heart from the way that Michael Russell was able to grind down Mardy Fish last week.
Mardy Fish looked rusty against Russell last week. He started well, but rapidly tired toward the end of the match and looked nervous on the important points. Despite this, he will have benefitted significantly from that match and will be hoping to continue to build on this foundation as he prepares for the US Open. If he is close to his best, he should win this match comfortably, but he will view this as much as a fitness exercise as a match to win.
They have played twice before, splitting those matches 1-1. Matthew Ebden pulled off the shock win in straight sets in Indian Wells last year in a match where Fish was controversially given a point penalty for obstruction. However, Fish gained his revenge in Toronto, dropping just two games and not even facing a single break point.
“You play well at places you’re comfortable at. Washington DC is one of them” – Mardy Fish on why he enjoys playing this tournament.
Mardy Fish will be looking to win this quickly, as the longer the match goes, the more you would fancy Matthew Ebden’s superior condition to come to the fore. He will have benefitted from a match last week and will fancy his chances to win this in two sets. If Ebden can drag it out to three sets though, the balance tips in favour of the Australian.
The Rest of the Matches
Radek Stepanek hasn’t been seen since Wimbledon, so there are clear doubts about his condition coming into this match against Steve Johnson. If he is fit, this should be an easy win, but with the questions surrounding his fitness, anything could happen. James Blake had some decent performances last week and should come through against the out-of-form Matosevic, while there should also be wins for Somdev Devvarman and Denis Kudla. Berankis and Kamke should be a decent match, although one would fancy the Lithuanian to qualify. Goffin against Lu, Falla against Lacko and Istomin against Giraldo will all be tight battles, while Malisse should have enough to beat Ram in the night’s other match.