It took a few years for Mardy Fish to progress from the top row of the stadium at Key Biscayne to a courtside seat. Now he's into the second round of the Nasdaq-100 Open.
Fish, a standout for the United States in his Davis Cup debut last month, overcame a slow start Wednesday to cool off Michel Kratochvil 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 on the event's opening day.
The son of a teaching pro in Vero Beach, Fish next plays Marcelo Rios, who won the title in 1998. Fish was there, a 16-year-old watching from the cheap seats.
"Like the top row," he said. "I was like throwing stuff off the back, trying to hit people."
Fish has come a long way since, although he hasn't kept pace with good friend Andy Roddick. They lived and practiced together in Boca Raton for a couple of years before Roddick blossomed into a top-15 player in 2001.
"I'm thrilled that he's doing well," said Fish, 20. "I just need to work on my mental part of the game and my serve a little bit more and my forehand, and hopefully I can be up there just like him."
American winners in women's play included Lilia Osterloh and Marissa Irvin. Britain's Greg Rusedski advanced to a second-round match against defending champion Andre Agassi, who is seeded ninth.
Another American, 19-year-old Robby Ginepri, lost to Juan Ignacio Chela 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3). Chela will next play the 10th-seeded Roddick.
Seeded players had opening-round byes and will take the court for the first time Friday.
Fish earned his third victory this year in tournament play, but it was the fourth of his career against a top-50 opponent. Kratochvil, ranked 43rd, upset Agassi last week in the first round at Indian Wells.
Now ranked 150th, Fish teamed with James Blake in doubles last month to win the clinching Davis Cup match as the Americans beat Slovakia. That ended a five-match losing streak in doubles for the United States.
Because of a computer error, seedings for No. 2 Juan Carlos Ferrero and No. 3 Yevgeny Kafelnikov were flipped. When the mistake was discovered, they exchanged places in the draw.