By John Delong
Mardy Fish’s comeback suffered another setback on Tuesday as he was forced to retire in his second-round match at the Winston-Salem Open.
Fish, the former World No. 7 who returned last month after a long layoff because of heart issues, said he "felt unwell" in the third set of a 7-5, 6-7 (3), 3-2 ret. loss to 11th-seeded Jarkko Nieminen in the first match of the afternoon on Center Court.
Fish had just broken Nieminen to get back on serve in the third set when he fell ill and could not continue.
He was still feeling too ill to speak to the media after the match, but issued a statement through the ATP.
"It obviously felt very hot and humid today," Fish said. "The weather just got to me a little bit and I just couldn’t go anymore. I had heat stroke and wasn’t feeling good, so I had to stop."
Nieminen said that he could tell Fish was laboring in the previous game.
"I saw something at the end of the last game, even though I lost my serve because he hit some great shots," Nieminen said. "But he was playing different. He didn’t move his legs. I’m sure he felt already something coming. He can answer the question of when he started to feel bad, but obviously he feels – he said he feels terrible. The last game, even though I lost it, I really noticed a big difference."
Fish had won his opening match on Sunday night, beating Evgeny Donskoy 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. He was playing in just his fifth tournament since last year’s US Open.
Fish said on Sunday night that his plan was to reassess where his career is headed after next week’s US Open, and then make a decision about his future.
"He’s had a couple of injury problems that I know of coming back, but he’s also dealing with just being healthy overall," said longtime friend James Blake, who was walking out to start his second-round match as Fish was being attended to.. "It was a hot day out there and he was out there for a long time, so we’ll just hope for the best. It didn’t look good that they called the doctor out as well."
Blake also exited on Tuesday, losing to No. 5 seed Benoit Paire 7-6 (9), 2-6, 6-3.
"Today was sort of the inconsistency that I’ve talked about before," Blake said. "I didn’t return very well. I didn’t put a lot of pressure on Benoit’s serve. He wasn’t making a lot of first serves and I wasn’t doing enough to put pressure on his second serve, which is normally one of my strengths but today it definitely wasn’t. And then I played one loose game on my serve in the third set, which is going to happen when I play the style I do, but usually I’m able to get a break back, and I just wasn’t able to do that today."
In other afternoon matches, No. 7 seed Fernando Verdasco beat American Tim Smyczek 3-6, 6-3, 6-3; No. 8 seed Juan Monaco beat Nicolas Mahut 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4; No. 9 seed Jurgen Melzer won when Thiemo De Bakker retired in the third set with Melzer leading 7-5, 6-7 (4), 4-2; No. 13 seed Dimitry Tursunov beat David Goffin 4-6, 7-5, 6-1; Roberto Bautista Agut beat No. 14 seed Martin Klizan 6-4, 6-1; Ricardas Berankis beat American Dennis Kudla 6-4, 6-4; and Alex Bogomolov Jr. beat Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.