Earlier today, former World No. 7 Mardy Fish tweeted he had signed up for Indian Wells. For the first time in over 18 months, the American will compete in an ATP tournament after all but fading from view, even taking up golf.
TTI takes a look at the past, present, and future of the 33-year-old from Minnesota.
As 2011 drew to a close, it looked like American Mardy Fish had finally made it to where he wanted to be. A strong second half of the season saw him reach the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, the finals in Montreal and the semi-finals of Cincinnati. Though his US Open campaign was cut short after a heated battle with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fish reached a career-high ranking and finished 2011 as top-ranked American, finally emerging from the shadow of childhood friend, Andy Roddick.
Until that point, Fish’s career had been one defined by potential and flashes of brilliance, but ultimately one hampered by struggles with injury and consistency. After his breakthrough season in 2003, he romped through the Athens Olympic singles draw to claim a silver medal.
In the wake of his greatest success, the American began to experience wrist issues that needed surgery in 2005, leaving him sidelined for about a year. Fish began rebuilding his ranking, but found himself see-sawing up and down the rankings for much of the next few years. By the age of 29, he began putting much greater emphasis on fitness, losing a much talked about 30 pounds that quickly earned on-court rewards.
The hard court specialist rose nearly 90 spots in a year, breaking into the Top 10 in 2011.
After his career year, however, new injury and health troubles appeared. Fish was diagnosed with severe cardiac arrhythmia after losing in the quarterfinals of Miami and underwent surgery, ruling him out of the 2012 clay season. Still ranked in the Top 10, he returned for the grass and hard court swings and enjoyed a solid summer, particularly in light of the physical health scare he had just experienced.
But what began as a physical problem began to have emotional and mental affects. In an interview with USA Today’s Doug Robson, Fish revealed he was frequently experiencing anxiety attacks. The feeling that “(his) heart was going to jump out of (his) chest” became a panic that would haunt him in his daily life. One of these attacks forced him to withdraw from his US Open fourth round match at the last minute.
Fish proceeded to play little more than a handful of matches in 2013.
In his most recent ATP appearance in Winston-Salem 2013, the American retired with a heat stroke in the third set of his 2nd round match which, as he later revealed, turned out to be another bout of anxiety.
Since then, it has been fairly quiet around the 33-year-old. Living in California, he took a step back from tennis, enjoying golf and family life for much of the last 18 months – all the while working on regaining a life free from anxiety.
Mardy Fish probably wouldn’t be the first person who’d spring to mind when you’re trying to think of a flashy player. But there is nothing wrong with that. Equipped with a strong serve, good net skills and a very dependable backhand, he was able to finish points when the opportunity arose, and his increased fitness allowed him to work rallies and the court much better.
The forehand was the shot that most often betrayed him, but it became much less of a liability at his peak. In his first and only World Tour Finals appearance, Fish left London without a win but his losses were never one-sided, pushing both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer into deciding sets.
A couple of days ago, the American already asked for advice on a strapless heart monitor, perhaps a hint at picking up the racquet again. A little earlier today, the news appeared on Twitter: the American was scheduled to play a challenger in Dallas in February:
Mardy Fish will play doubles at the Dallas Challenger next week, together with Mark Knowles.—
Chris de Waard (@TennisPurist) January 28, 2015
A few hours later, Fish himself announced that he had entered Indian Wells with a protected ranking:
Next stop... Indian Wells!!! http://t.co/OnrKf3eLs7—
Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) January 28, 2015
From his career high, the veteran has made no further statements regarding how many tournaments he would play, or even a goal for the season.
But should it matter whether Fish can mount a comeback to the very top of the game?
Much like Robin Söderling, who stopped playing around a same time due to mononucleosis, the only thing that should matter is Fish’s health. If he is able to enjoy tennis again, that’s great, even better if his body and mind allow him to compete properly again.
The American has been through several difficult years, with health scares and well-documented anxiety attacks tainting what should have been the best part of his career. It would be nice to see that persistence rewarded and for the former world No. 7 to play – and eventually finish – his career on his own terms.
How do you feel about Mardy Fish’s return? Do you have any expectations or hopes? Sound off in the comments!