- Associated Press - Thursday, November 24, 2011

LONDON (AP) - For Mardy Fish, just qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time was the culmination of a decade-long career.

After leaving London without a victory in three round-robin matches in the season-ending event, the 29-year-old Fish hopes to prove there’s still even better things to come.

“I’ll certainly spend the next five weeks or so working on some of my weaknesses and hope that when I turn 30, it doesn’t mean that I’ll go backward,” Fish said after losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to Roger Federer at the O2 Arena on Thursday.

Fish qualified following a career-best year in which he overtook Andy Roddick as the highest-ranked American, breaking into the top 10 for the first time.

While he was perhaps the most surprising player in the field of eight, he couldn’t manage to spring any upsets against his more illustrious opponents. Fish lost to Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his first two matches, meaning Thursday’s matchup against Federer _ who had already qualified for the semifinals _ was mainly a chance to earn a consolation victory.

Even though the No. 4-ranked Swiss handed Fish another loss, this was still a week the American will fondly remember.

“I enjoyed still playing at this time of the year when no one else is,” Fish said. “We get our own locker rooms back there, our names on our towels. For me, that doesn’t happen every year. A lot of guys have made this (tournament) a lot of times, but I haven’t, and I can appreciate it a lot more. … I know there’s a chance I won’t ever come back to this event, so I wanted to take it all in.”

Despite the three losses, Fish certainly didn’t embarrass himself.

He took the second-ranked Nadal into a third-set tiebreaker on Sunday, and lost the first set to Tsonga in a a tiebreaker as well before falling 6-1 in the second.

“Tennis wise, the bottom line is I’ll go home losing three matches, which kind of stinks,” Fish said. “But, I mean, I feel like the results could have been slightly different and I could have won my first match.”

Against Federer, Fish dominated the second set but couldn’t bounce back after allowing an early break in the third.

“Have to give credit to Mardy,” Federer said. “The first set wasn’t as one-sided as the score suggested, and the second set he played great.”

There was one upside to missing out on the semifinals: Fish can take the time to enjoy a proper Thanksgiving dinner.

“A lot of us are going to go to an American restaurant and have some turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, enjoy all being together over here still,” he said. “Unfortunately for me, I live in Los Angeles, my family still lives in Florida, so I don’t get to spend many holidays with them. They’re actually here, which is nice, so I can cherish that, as well.”

And those personal towels make for pretty good souvenirs.

“I’ve taken like 10 towels already,” Fish said. “We have a lot of bath towels and pool towels for L.A.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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