Fish relishes extra time off
Atlanta - Mardy Fish has until at least mid-week to polish his fitness after a nagging abdominal strain, with the top seed benefiting on Monday from a bye, giving him extra time before the second round of the Atlanta Championships.
Fish, the top-ranked American at ninth on the ATP list, will await a winner from experienced Frenchman Nicolas Mahut of France or Lithuanian newcomer Richard Berankis.
Fish, 29, was troubled by the strain, which he picked up in the French Open first round nearly two months ago, but managed a Wimbledon quarter-final showing. He then lost both of his singles rubbers in the US humiliation by Spain in this month's Davis Cup quarter-finals and finally rested last week.
He is hoping that pause will be enough to see him through into a possible second title at the event, which is now in its second year after replacing the Indianapolis summer stop as the first hardcourt event on the run to the US Open.
But while he's hoping to come good with perfect timing, Fish is in for the long haul as he prepares to play the first of six straight tournament weeks prior to the August 29 start of the US Open.
He will have to pace himself and his energies to avoid a burnout of a form collapse before the final major of the season.
"I have to be smart and listen to my body," said the veteran, who beat celebrated compatriot John Isner in last year's Atlanta final played in searing, humid southern heat.
"I believe I have a chance to do some great things this summer, and the only way I'll be able to do that is by taking care of my body. I think I'm making the right decision."
Fish heads a field populated by Americans and the occasional European. South African Kevin Anderson, a 2010 semi-finalist, takes the second seeding ahead of Isner. Belgian Xavier Malisse stands fourth, with teenaged Bulgarian Gregor Dimitrov the No 5.
Some names from the past also figure in the field, with one-time No 2 Tommy Haas of Germany continuing his slow return after hip surgery.
Former World No 1 Lleyton Hewitt is another injury comeback victim hoping for the best. It was foot surgery last spring for Hewitt, who has already had both operations on both hips. The two-time Grand Slam champion now stands 174th and will have to depend on wild cards to gain tournament entries.