Without a doubt, Mardy Fish is having the best year of his tennis career and, for the first time, the 29-year-old arrives in New York with a legitimate shot at winning a Grand Slam title.
Fish also will be the top-ranked American man at the U.S. Open, which starts today in Flushing, N.Y.
Fish has played well all year, but he has been at his best this summer, having won the U.S. Open Series title, putting him in line for the additional $1 million bonus if he can win the U.S. Open. He is seeded eighth and plays Tobias Kamke of Germany today in the first round.
Fish's summer hardcourt season began for all intents and purposes in July in Austin, Texas, where he lost two Davis Cup matches. Despite the losses, his gutsy showing was evidence of things to come.
He won in Atlanta and followed by reaching the final in Los Angeles and at the Masters Series event in Montreal, where he pushed top-ranked Novak Djokovic to three sets. Last week in Cincinnati, Fish lost to No. 4-ranked Andy Murray in the semifinals, but that came a day after a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal.
"Yeah, it's been a good year," Fish said. "It's been a pretty consistent year for me, basically starting in Memphis (in February) when I started feeling better from a thyroid condition that I had. I was feeling pretty (bad) in Australia and wasn't really sure why."
Even before that, the onetime Tampa resident began to make several changes that set the tone for this year.
"I think it started with the weight loss," said Fish, who is down to 180 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. "It started with changing my discipline and changing my outlook on the game and how I took it from a week-to-week basis and a month-to-month basis.
"I changed the reason why I played. You know, I found a better reason to enjoy being on the court and enjoy being on the practice court."
Soon after getting into shape, both physically and mentally, Fish's results started to improve.
"Then the confidence just comes, you know," he said. "You hope it's not arrogance. You hope it's just confidence on the court. That comes from winning."
The success boosted Fish into the top 10 for the first time in his career, and as a result, he has taken the mantle of top American man from Andy Roddick. It's a label Fish is still not quite comfortable with.
"I've gone under the radar pretty comfortably," he said, "haven't had to answer to too many critics. So with being the No. 1 American comes a little bit of extra pressure, but it's good pressure. It's certainly a position you want to be in."
ESPN commentator and former U.S. Open champion John McEnroe believes Fish is playing well enough to make a serious run at the title.
"He's in as good a position as he could possibly be in." McEnroe said. "He's maxing out at least, which is good to see. He's fulfilling all the potential that people talked about."
On the women's side, American Serena Williams, who was injured last year, comes in better prepared than at any recent major. She played three tune-up events, winning two, and won the U.S. Open Series, giving her a chance at the $1 million bonus if she can win her 14th major and her fourth U.S. Open title.
"Women's tennis, I mean, everyone is playing so well now," said U.S. Open semifinalist Melanie Oudin, whose 2009 run was the surprise of the tournament. "I mean Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon. No one saw that coming, because she had never won (a Grand Slam event) before. I really think there's not a favorite outside of Serena Williams. I think she's a huge threat, but just everybody, everybody's playing well. There are so many people that could take it. It's just who gets on a roll during those two weeks."