Fish stumbles but avoids premature U.S. Open exit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American Mardy Fish avoided bowing out of the first round of the U.S. Open for the fourth time in his career with a dogged 6-0 3-6 4-6 6-0 6-1 win over Jan Hajek on Tuesday.

Fish continued his strong 2010 to date with a faultless first-set display in which his Czech opponent was not given a moment to settle.

He looked on course for a comfortable straight-sets victory but the number 19 seed’s normally reliable serve fell apart in the next two sets as Hajek edged toward a major upset.

Fish, a first-round loser at the U.S. Open in 2000, 2001 and 2005, had a miserable first-serve percentage of 40 percent in the third set and cut a disgruntled figure on court.

But as the shadows increasingly came over the Grandstand court, giving both players some respite from the rising temperatures, Fish managed to recapture his earlier good form.

On the resumption of play in the fourth set, his serving accuracy noticeably shot up and he immediately got the break on the opening Hajek serve to add greater spring to his step.

In contrast, Hajek’s game fell apart and the 27-year-old, playing only his 12th grand slam singles encounter, managed to win a solitary game in the final two sets and twice had to be treated by the trainer for an injury to his right hand.

As a previously topsy-turvy encounter reached a one-sided finale, a lightweight Fish, who shed 30 pounds ahead of the season start after undergoing knee surgery, produced the sort of tennis that earned him back-to-back titles on American soil earlier this year.

Editing by Frank Pingue