Fish throws in the towels

MARDY Fish bowed out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with no wins from three matches and no points to boost his world ranking but with 10 towels in his luggage. The personalised towels are one of the little luxuries provided for the eight singles players at the year-ending championships and will be a reminder to the Los Angeles resident of his week among the elite.

"We have a lot of bath towels and pool towels for LA," Fish said with a smile after losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to Roger Federer in his final group match. "We've taken a lot of pictures. We've taken the shower door, the mirror. No, only joking. But I've taken a lot of towels."

The 29-year-old American, who finally broke into the top 10 this season in his 12th year on the tour, has not been at his best in London, his preparations having been hampered by a hamstring injury, but he is determined to qualify for the event again. "It's like flying first class," he said. "You don't know what you're missing until you fly it once. Then you don't ever want to leave."

With Federer already through to the semi-finals and Fish unable to progress, spectators might have feared a less than competitive match, but there was plenty at stake. The 200 ranking points for each round-robin win may have been uppermost in Federer's mind as he is now just 110 points away from reclaiming the No 3 spot from Andy Murray, which he would do by reaching the final here.

With 400 points for a semi-final win and another 500 for winning the final, Federer would earn 1,500 ranking points if he wins the title. That compares with 2,000 points for a Grand Slam title (runners-up earn 1,200) and 1,000 in the Masters Series (runners-up 600).

Meanwhile the financial rewards reflect the tournament's standing as the year's most important outside the four Grand Slam events. If Federer successfully defends his title he will collect USD$1.63m ($AU1.68m) in prize money, just short of the USD$1.8m ($AU1.86m) Novak Djokovic won with his US Open triumph two months ago. Players receive USD$120,000 ($AU124,000) just for taking part, the same for each round-robin win and a further USD$380,000 ($AU392,000) for reaching the final.

When you have earned USD$65.2m ($AU67.2m) from prize money alone the extra million or two probably makes little difference. For some of the other players, however, the prize money is significant. Janko Tipsarevic, for example, would have more than doubled his year's earnings if he had won the title here. The 27-year-old Serb earned USD$132,160 ($AU136,274) for winning the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last month, which was only the second tournament victory of his career, yet he will take home USD$165,000 ($AU170,000) this week even if he follows up his defeat to Tomas Berdych on Wednesday with another loss against Djokovic today.

As the two alternates - who attend in case any of the eight-man field are injured - Tipsarevic and Nicolas Almagro were guaranteed USD$70,000 ($AU72,000) just for turning up. Tipsarevic, who replaced Murray after the Scot's first match, will earn an extra USD$95,000 ($AU98,000) for playing two matches and an additional USD$120,000 ($AU124,000) if he beats Djokovic.

Fish, who celebrated Thanksgiving Day last night by going to an American restaurant with his family to eat turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberries, said he felt "honoured" to be part of this week.

"We get our own locker rooms back there, our names on our towels," he said. "For me, that doesn't happen every year. A lot of guys have made this a lot of times, but I haven't. Maybe I can appreciate it more because I know it's very hard to get back here. I know there's a chance I won't ever come back to this event, so I wanted to take it all in."

Fish's late success in his career came after he decided to lose two stone in weight when he was recovering from knee surgery two winters ago. He recalled how hard his comeback had been.

"I remember the beginning of 2010 when I was in Memphis," he said. "I was recovering from knee surgery and it wasn't going well. I remember I was losing to a guy that I probably should not have been losing to pretty badly. I wasn't healthy. I remember someone yelling out: 'Quit tanking. Why don't you start trying harder?' I could barely move. That was the lowest moment of my tennis career by a mile."

Federer, meanwhile, has been so relaxed this week that he took up Thierry Henry's invitation to accompany him to Arsenal's Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. "I enjoyed it," Federer said. "I was able to go down on the pitch, go in the locker room, meet the players. They were extremely happy. It was nice for me to see some English football."

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