Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 3/26/12

The Mardy Fish of 2012 is quite different than the Mardy Fish of 2011. Now, the 2011 Fish was streaky and was far from being a paragon of consistency. Fish also had his fair share of early exits from tournaments in early 2011. But what separates the Fish of early 2011 from how Fish is playing now are his lack of bad losses and lack of poor play. Fish may not have been the most consistent player at any point last year, but at least his overall quality of play was that of a top player.

Fish can’t say that at all this year. His level of play since 2011 started has been, to put it nicely, bad. Losses to Aleandro Falla, Matthew Ebden, and Albano Olivetti (??!), on one of Fish’s best surfaces, no less, are just things that a top 10 player cannot have. At least, not if he wants to stay in the top 10 for very long. Fish will have over 1500 points from the US Open Summer Series protecting his ranking until July, but he’s really getting to crunch time if he wants to move up at all or even stay in the top 10.

Which is why Miami is big for Fish. It’s not because he is defending a semifinal showing and 360 points from last year. That’s important and useful, but in all practicality it only means the difference of 1 or 2 ranking spots. No, Fish needs Miami because he’s good on this surface and it’s his real last chance to gain any momentum before the summer.

Fish is bad on clay. Most American players are. That’s not insulting his game at all and it’s probably a fact that he acknowledges. Fish has been past the second round of a clay Masters event once in his career, when he reached the third round in Rome last year. I don’t think that losing on clay will hurt Fish’s confidence or game at all. I’m sure it’s something that, at some point, he pretty much expects. Still, that means that after Miami there will be around 2 months where Fish isn’t really gaining any points.

And it’s not all about points. Fish really hasn’t had a good showing at a tournament since Tokyo last November. It really has been over 6 months since Fish has played well at all, and closer to 8 months since he’s really played top 10 tennis. Fish needs to reverse that trend quickly, and there won’t be any real opportunities to do that these next two months. He needs a good run here in Miami so that he doesn’t get to Wimbledon in late June on a 10-month-long slump.

The draw is available for him to get through here. He has big-serving Kevin Anderson to get by in the Round of 32, and then it’s either Nicolas Almagro or Fernando Verdasco in the following round. All of these are players that Fish can beat if he can find anywhere close to good form. More importantly though, there’s players that Fish has to beat if he wants any type of momentum or confidence before Wimbledon. A quarterfinal showing here (or better) is something that Fish really needs, because he probably won’t be getting another one for a while.

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