Since the 2012 US Open, Mardy Fish has played just three matches; two at Indian Wells and one at a Challenger tournament in Savannah in April. He’s set to return to the ATP Tour again at the tournament in Atlanta, followed by Washington, D.C., and in the meantime has been playing World TeamTennis in Sacramento to prepare for the return.
Fish had heart surgery last year to correct an arrhythmia, and Fish said that it’s been a challenge to feel comfortable since the procedure.
“We’ve come quite a long way, health-wise,” Fish said on a conference call. “As far as the heart condition is concerned, the surgery was able to let us know where we were, and give us peace of mind that everything’s okay in that sense. As far as the heart condition is concerned, I haven’t had any issues with that. I don’t feel like I have any issues. That’s been one of the hard things, trusting that. It has been a scary thing. That’s behind me, and you just try to get in the best possible mental state. You can’t play this game without being fit, and without being mentally fit. You can’t play in the summer in D.C. and Atlanta without feeling 100% ready to go. I’ve spent the past five, six months trying to put myself in calculated positions to come back.”
But Fish was cryptic about what he’s been going through.
“A lot of [the issues] are mental. A lot of them are physical. Some of them are other things that are out of our control. I know it doesn’t help that I’m dancing around the question. It’s been very hard. We will come out eventually with exactly what’s been going on. There’s some calculated things I want to do to help other people that have been in my position and what have gone through what I’ve gone through.”
“I will say it’s been extremely hard the first six months after the US Open. Some days are better than others, and some weeks are better than others. But we’ve turned a corner. The last three months, I’m able to train as hard as I possibly could. Being that far away from home, going to Wimbledon was going to be extremely hard. I need faces that I’m comfortable with around me at all times when I’m playing right now. There were some scenarios where that wasn’t able to happen in Wimbledon when we decided not to go there.”
Fish rejected the comparison between what he’s been going through with the struggles of Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams.
“I’m not going to put myself in their category. [Nadal] had an injury to his body, to his knees. He’s had injuries that have been far, far different than my injuries. Venus, on the other hand, has had some health issues that you can somewhat relate to, but again are very, very different than what I’ve gone through.”
Fish has been consulting with Dr. Jim Loehr, who worked with Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, and other athletes, calling him a “very close confidante” during his recovery.
“The tour goes on. No one misses you, really. You have to kind of do things for yourself. You have to make sure that everything’s perfect when you come back. You can’t duplicate the pressure of playing [matches]. There’s been nobody in LA to hit with [because everyone’s in Europe]. Nobody’s going to skip a tournament so they can come practice with you.”
Fish said it was a difficult decision to skip Wimbledon, but the choice was clear, given the circumstances.
“Being that far away from home, it’s a very delicate thing, what I’ve been going through. Being that far away from home was going to be tough.”
“We’re creatures of habit. We’re envious of the PGA Tour in the sense that the farthest they have to travel is West Coast to East Coast. They never really leave the country. That’s why, as Americans, that’s why John Isner, Sam Querrey, Andy Roddick, it’s all about being comfortable. There are some stops on tour that are sort of uncomfortable for Americans to go. We don’t speak the language, we don’t understand the menus, the food. There’s a lot of extra stuff that goes into feeling comfortable playing. That’s why I play well in Indian Wells, Atlanta, Washington DC. You love being comfortable.”
“Being far away from home is very hard. There’s tons of travel on us. Tons of away time from your comfort zone. That part’s very hard. That’s why you see the Europeans not necessarily enjoying playing in Cincinnati. But it’s place that Americans love.”