The top-seeded Mardy Fish shook off a mediocre start to beat Bjorn Phau 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 on Tuesday in a first-round match in the Citi Open.
Fish moved into the second round along with fellow seeded players Tommy Haas, Kevin Anderson and Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Struggling with his composure and a bad ankle at 1-1 in the second set, Fish fought off a service break by firing two of his 15 aces. The 2004 Olympian won five straight games to win the set and went on to win 10 of 11 games.
“I get down a break there, you start questioning things, start feeling the ankle a little bit more,” Fish said. “You’d be surprised how much better it feels up a break than down a break.”
Fish, who missed several weeks on tour earlier this year following a procedure to correct a heart problem, rattled off wins in five straight games to take the set. He won 10 of 11 games overall.
“It was nice to sort of get the momentum there in the second set and keep it throughout the match,” said Fish, who returned to the tour this summer by reaching the round of 16 at Wimbledon.
Fish will play wildcard Ricardas Berankis in the second round after the Lithuanian continued his recent strong form with a 6-4, 7-5 win over France’s Nicolas Mahut.
On the women’s side, top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia eliminated Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia 6-4, 6-3, while third-seeded Sloane Stephens of the US became the first woman into the third round after beating Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2, 0-6, 6-1.
Haas, an Olympic medalist not playing in the London Games, continued his impressive northern summer by defeating the US’ qualifier Michael Russell 6-4, 6-2. Dolgopolov beat Flavio Cipolla 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the second round.
Only a brief rain delay between sets slowed Haas, the last player to beat Roger Federer this year and like Fish, an Olympic silver medalist. The 34-year-old German never faced a break point and broke Russell’s serve three times, setting up a second-round meeting with Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.
Ranked No. 36 in the world, Haas, who medaled at the 2000 Sydney Games, is still bothered by a decision that denied him the chance to play at Wimbledon, the site of this year’s Olympic tournament. The German Olympic Sports Federation rule states that players must be ranked in the top 24 in the world to participate.
“When I watch the Olympics, I’m still surprised I’m not there,” said Haas, once the world’s No. 2 player. “The German Olympic committee didn’t nominate me, which was a big mistake in my eyes. That’s life. That happens. I’m happy to play the same week while the Olympics are going on.”
Haas pulled out of the 2008 Beijing games because of injuries, but “this time I was fit and ready to go.”
“It’s a special occasion, it’s at Wimbledon,” Haas said. “I was very disappointed not to be part of [this year’s Olympics], but you forget about it now and try to worry about playing in the tournament.”
Ranked 13th in the world last summer and poised for a berth on the Russian Olympic team, Pavlyuchenkova struggled early this year and lost ground to others from her country. Rather than playing for gold, silver or bronze, she is aiming for her first title this year.
“Because I’m here, of course, I’m 200 percent in this tournament and I’m happy to be here,” said Pavlyuchenkova, after winning six of nine break-point chances against Jovanovski. “I’m happy to have the opportunity to play another tournament while others play in the Olympics, so at least I’m not on holiday or just watching them play and win matches. Like this, I can do it myself.”