NEW YORK Local favorite Mardy Fish ruined Gael Monfils's 22nd birthday celebrations by handing the French 32nd seed a 7-5 6-2 6-2 drubbing in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Monday.
Monfils would have hoped to mark his big day by reaching the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows for the first time. Instead it was Fish who was celebrating that personal landmark after outwitting Monfils with his serve and volley tactics.
Having trampled over seeds Paul-Henri Mathieu and James Blake in the previous two rounds, the 35th-ranked American kept up his run by meting out similar treatment to Monfils.
"I was certainly elated to have beaten a tough opponent like that fairly quickly," Fish said following his two-hour win.
"It's nice it be in the quarters of a slam. It's not every tournament that I make the quarters of a slam. I've always wanted to do well here. I was desperate to do well."
For Fish, reaching the last eight at home is particularly gratifying after the hurdles he has had to overcome.
In 2003, he ended the season ranked 20th but less than 18 months later a left wrist injury almost wrecked his career. His ranking went into freefall, dropping to as low as 341.
But he was determined not to give up and the success enjoyed by his friends Andy Roddick and James Blake spurred him to get back on to a tennis court.
"It was extremely tough. I just couldn't play. I wanted to be with them. We all push each other, and the toughest thing was watching them do so well and then not having a shot to kind of stay with them," said Fish.
"That was tough. Everyone was doing well and I wanted to go right there with them."
Now that he is in the mix, he does not want his run to stop in the quarter-finals. He certainly faces a tough challenge because his next opponent is expected to be top seed Rafael Nadal, provided the Spaniard overcomes Fish's compatriot Sam Querrey.
Fish remained undaunted by the challenge.
"I feel like a guy with my style of play is someone that he doesn't want to see," said the 26-year-old.
"If he's on the other side of the net, I'm going to come in and I'm going to, not necessarily a Kamikaze type tennis, but I'm going to try to keep the points as short as possible."
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Claudia Parsons)