Mar 16, 2013, 5:47:43 PM

Mardy Fish is a good guy. He has been around the tour for a number of years but it was only really a couple of years ago that he enjoyed a breakthrough that should have happened quite some time before. He made the...
Mardy Fish is a good guy. He has been around the tour for a number of years but it was only really a couple of years ago that he enjoyed a breakthrough that should have happened quite some time before. He made the world’s top ten and qualified for the season-ending ATP World Tour Championships in London. It seemed once and for all the injuries that had plagued much of his career, when he should have been level pegging with his close friend and now retired Andy Roddick, were finally behind him. He was going to reap the benefits but it was not the case and a year ago Fish, his wife Stacey and family were thrown into turmoil when a heart issue resulted in surgery. I remember him saying in London at the World Tour Finals he was physically tired and a bit mentally drained from all the tennis he had played to get there, but at the same time he was in seventh heaven and was going to make the most of it because you never know if it will all come around again. There was the big money, the attention and a place in that top ten club. In March/April last year the surgery happened. He tried to play the grass season and went up to the US Open but then he experienced the same scary symptoms of not being able to breathe and feeling his heart not performing and quit. His first event back was the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells this month. He said he would assess his position after playing Miami but didn’t think the report card would show he’d have to give up his tennis. Right now Mardy Fish is at the crossroads. He pulled out of Miami. “It’s been a tough few months. It’s nice to just play, first and foremost and then you get out there and you want to win,” he said. “You want to stay within yourself a little bit and not get too fired up or too low (but) then all of a sudden you find yourself in the third set, deep in the third set losing. That sort of fight starts kicking in and you want to win.” The smell of competing and of the competition so intoxicating. He said there were “demons” he had to also try and remove from his head. That fear of thinking something was going to happen to him physically. “Naturally when you get back out there and start playing again, it’s going to be one of the toughest things to deal with,” said Fish. Yet he suggested dealing with the demons during a match is “actually relatively easy” because there is enough to worry about. It’s before and after that is the problem. Fish added: “For the first three months after the US Open I had retired and non-retired in my head almost every week. There was a while where I was done. I had gotten it through my head that I was done and just trying to have normalcy again.” But that desire to compete was still bubbling. He was not prepared to just play; if he was going to play it had to be at the highest level. After having experienced the highest echelons, just being a run-of-the-mill player was not going to cut it. For Fish the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was a lovely week at an event he’s loved, and was being watched by those he loves. In the lead-up and immediately after the adrenalin had him on a high, however that has died down and things are not quite as he’d want. Pulling out of Miami means assessment time is here now. Things are not the same, his buddy Andy Roddick is not around and his best mate James Blake is in the twilight and while their movements wouldn’t determine what Mardy does, it’s not really the same anymore. “Usually we go to LG’s (high-end steak restaurant) and Andy pays for my meals – I miss the free meals form him because he has more money than we all do,” he said smiling. “I miss the sort of silent cheering from afar for both of us. I’m still lucky to have James around (but) he’s in the same sort of boat as Andy and I were. We’re all very close in that regard. “It’s certainly different. We stayed at the same resort at a tournament like Indian Wells. We go to dibber practically every night together. We actually had breakfast every single morning. It’s different when you’re eating by yourself. I certainly miss him.” Even though Fish says it won’t, maybe such a situation will also be a silent factor from afar in his assessment.