Mardy Fish is doing some things a little bit differently at Wimbledon this year - and chief among them is advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time.
The lone American remaining at the tournament made it that far Monday by beating 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4, but things won't get much easier against defending champion Rafael Nadal in the next round.
"Last, last," Fish said a few hours after both Serena and Venus Williams lost in the fourth round. "Again, I mean, it's not what you set out to do. It was, I guess, bad luck for the Williams sisters to lose. Unfortunate, I guess. They'll be back, I'm sure."
The 29-year-old Fish has been moving up the rankings this year while the rest of the American tennis scene has been dropping from the top places. Now at No. 9 in the world, things seem to be coming together rather nicely.
At the All England Club, Fish has held serve in 64 of his 65 games - his one break is the best of any of the eight quarterfinalists - and won 12 of 13 sets.
"This is much different than '08 U.S. Open for me. I feel a lot different," said Fish, who reached the quarterfinals at that major tournament but lost to Nadal. "I feel like a completely different player. So I'm hoping it doesn't end."
If it does end in the quarterfinals, though, it will again be Nadal that sends Fish packing. But the defending champion from Spain hurt his left foot while beating Juan Martin del Potro, giving Fish a good chance to reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
The match is scheduled for Wednesday.
"You know, you can't go out there thinking you can't win," said Fish, who was speaking before Nadal hurt himself on Centre Court. "But I've never been past this spot in a Grand Slam. Past this spot is where I want to be, where you set your goals for."
Nadal limped for part of his match, and twice called for a trainer against del Potro. He said he watched Fish play earlier in the tournament, but didn't get to see any of the match against Berdych.
"I need be at my 100 percent. If not, going to be impossible against him. So I have to recover," Nadal said. "Let's see what's going on and let's see how the MRI looks. And after, let's see if we have the chance to recover for Wednesday. I don't know."
Nadal may have missed it, but probably would have been impressed with what Fish did against Berdych. The 10th-seeded American hit 23 aces and saved both break points he faced.
He finished with 42 winners and only 12 unforced errors, just the kind of numbers you need to go far.
"This is obviously a huge tournament for me. Suits my game probably better than any other tournament for me Grand Slam-wise," said Fish, who also reached the quarterfinals at the 2007 Australian Open. "So I felt like maybe it's one of those ones that I really wanted to do well at. You know, in the quarterfinals. Feels great again."
Another hot day like Monday, when on-court temperatures reached 93 degrees, might make Fish feel even more confident when it comes time to face Nadal - a man he has lost to all five times they have played.
"Hot. Yeah, hot," Fish said when asked what kind of conditions he wanted for Wednesday. "Hot, quick, humid."