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An Interview With: Mardy Fish

Monday, August 31, 2015

Q. It was a couple years ago the match with Federer didn't happen because of heart palpitations. Was it physical? What were the issues and what got you back here?

MARDY FISH: It was -- I don't know, physical. I had trouble with anxiety disorder for the past three years since -- probably three years to the day, to the week, whatever. So that's why I haven't been back.

Q. I read the pieces on you, and I know you're trying to help other people besides yourself. I wondered did you talk to Zack Greinke or other athletes who had high anxiety problems? What did they tell you?

MARDY FISH: I haven't. I think he has something a little different, social anxiety disorder. There is not very many that have -- sort of let it be known that they are having problems. That was one of the reasons why, like first it helps me to talk about it. It helps me personally to be open and talk about it, first and foremost. And then secondly, just because when I was going through the whole process -- I'm a huge sports fan, so whenever I was going through the whole process it was sort of looking for a role model or someone that had beaten it or that had had success with it and was able to come back and be successful or just come back and play again. I couldn't really find that person that was sort of out there and, you know, in front of it. That's another reason.

Q. What kind of personal accomplishment was it for you just to get back out there today, and can you compare the feeling early on in this match and warming up for it versus what you were dealing with the last time you were here?

MARDY FISH: Yeah, I mean, it's different for me right now because I realize this is my last event. But I've got so many different sort of emotions going through that don't have anything to do with that. That part's a little tricky. I want to sort of embrace the whole thing. Taken a lot of advice from Andy and James and a bunch of guys who have stopped and what their feelings were. It's just a little different for me because of my history here three years ago and just my history in the past three years. So I want to sort of take in everything and enjoy all aspects of this tournament, because it is so great, but sometimes it's hard. I mean, you know, I haven't played for three hours very long or very often since I have been back here, I guess, 2012. I haven't hit tennis balls for three hours in practice at all. So, I mean, I'm naturally a bit -- you know, you look at the clock and you're a bit worried that, Can I last this long? You know, that just sort of spirals and snowballs into the other issues that I have to deal with.

Q. How much anxiety was there in the first set when you served for the match and then you lost the breaker, came back, what were you feeling then? And how concerned are you about recovery and also the emotion...

MARDY FISH: How many questions, Doug? Four questions there? (Laughter.)

Q. Andy kept winning and winning and winning; kept preparing and emotionally last match then goes on, it's not.

MARDY FISH: I will answer your fifth question first (laughter.) Just how much tennis I have had in the past, which is not much, you know, no match is for granted. I certainly don't expect myself to make a run like Andy did, you know, to the fourth round, quarterfinal, or whatever. So I took it as this was my last match until I won, and then the next one will be maybe my last match. In the first set -- well, I knew it was going to be hot. I knew it was going to be humid. Those are conditions that I used to absolutely love. I would have just drawn up a day like this just with more sun three, four years ago. But, you know, what I have had to deal with, you know, I was super anxious about that, about the weather, and about how that was going to be and how I was going to deal with that. You know, coming out I broke serve first game, and then lost serve at 5-All. I figured, you know, if I lost this set I was gonna be in for a really long day that maybe I can't push myself through. And I got through it. I knew that I was playing fine. It was just a matter of getting going. Was my body going to hold up? Was I going to hold up? So there is a lot of things that most players out here don't have to deal with that I have to deal with in those circumstances.

Q. Having given a lot of thought to this being your final tournament on the court at least, what would you want your legacy to be both as a player and as a role model that you said really never existed when you looked around?

MARDY FISH: That's a good question. I don't think about that, to answer honestly. I don't know. You know, the mental health stuff, I just hope to help people. Like I said, it helps me talk about it. If it helps me talk about it, maybe it helps other people talk about it. I have heard from lots of people throughout the past couple years that are thankful that I'm doing it or am out front with it. Tennis-wise, I don't know. That's not really up to me. I guess it's for other people to decide where I stand in our generation. So I will let you guys do that.

Q. In simple terms, how did it feel to be back out? Did you feel the goodwill from the crowd?

MARDY FISH: Yeah, absolutely, and that's why you want this to be your last one. That's the memory that I want to last. So, yeah, it felt great just apart from -- if it would have been straight sets instead of four sets, it would have helped a lot. Would have helped a lot tonight, tomorrow, and on to Wednesday, for sure.

Q. People say that, I don't know, pressure or stress is a pandemic in our society. First question is: Could you just talk about what is anxiety disorder? And secondly, share with us, if you wish, what it's like in the middle of the night as you're a world class athlete and yet your heart is pounding and racing? What's going through your head?

MARDY FISH: Well, anxiety disorder is where your mind takes over and usually goes into the future and sort of predicts what you think is going to happen, and usually it's bad stuff. I had a couple of traumatic experiences to help that along and to sort of snowball that into some bad thoughts here in 2012 against Simon and in Miami 2012 went to the hospital. So, you know, that's how that developed and that's how that sort of snowballs. And then the other question is it's not a great feeling. We deal with -- I deal -- when I practice or when I used to practice, I used to practice with a heart rate monitor on so I knew how fast I could get my heart rate down training-wise, how high I could go and then how low I could go so when you're in that situation and you can't control it. So, you know, we're used to controlling, trying to control our heart rate as best we can, you know, so we can do it point after point. When you can't control it, it's pretty tough.

Q. Did any of your incredible experiences, like in Colombia or silver medal tournament wins, did that help you? Could you draw on that at all?

MARDY FISH: Not really. To be honest, I sort of look back on something like that, look back on Colombia, for instance, playing three matches in over 11 hours in three days and just thinking, Man, that's a long ways away from where I am now.

Q. Today were you thinking at all about 2012 and what happened at this tournament? And in a more general sense, what was sort of your mental state as you took the court? Were you nervous or anxious?

MARDY FISH: No, I was okay starting. You know, again, I knew that weather would sort of dictate a lot of my thoughts and how the match went obviously. Knowing if I could get it over -- you know, knowing that it was a fairly good draw and that if I could get it over with, you know, relatively quickly, that would be a good thing. Then losing that first set obviously -- I spent a lot of time on the court today telling myself that I'm going to be okay; everything's going to be okay; you're going to be fine. A lot of sort of internal talk. That comes from you just learning from every experience and episode that I have had, struggle that I have had and what I have worked so hard to get myself to. Three years ago that would have been really tough. I have come a long way and worked really hard with it. I don't take it for granted. I'm glad I got through it.

Q. Taking any type of medications for this or is this something you worked out on your own?

MARDY FISH: Yeah, took medication.

Q. When this episode occurred in 2012 you were at the pinnacle of your career. Did you ever think why did it strike you then maybe as opposed to in your earlier days when you weren't playing as well?

MARDY FISH: Not really. It's unfortunate that it happened when it happened, but what happened to me was expectations changed. All of a sudden it wasn't quite good enough to make the fourth round of a Grand Slam, when my whole life before that it was an incredible achievement and something that I had only done a couple of times. You know, there is a lot of pressure that I put on myself, a lot of hard work I put on myself where, Man, you know, this is supposed to happen because I have worked so hard for it. So that's -- it's no secret that that's why I'm not surprised that it happened then. I mean, travel was really tough for me in the beginning of 2012. I had a long 2011 where I finished on Thanksgiving. A lot of factors that sort of come together.

Q. You could have retired the last couple of years with no real shame and as an accomplished player. You're back really just for this one hurrah this summer. Did you think about retiring, and why didn't you?

MARDY FISH: Well, I kind of thought I was -- I started playing a different sport. I always --you know, there is a reason why I didn't "retire," because I figured deep down I wanted, you know, to go out on my own terms. So, you know, that's a huge part of it. A huge part of it is just coming back here, enjoying the experience of this tournament one last time, and sort of conquering what happened where it was all sort of pulled away from me three years ago.

Q. You have been very open. You've said talking about it has helped. Do you have a sense more athletes dealing with similar issues and they might benefit from talking about it? Would you encourage it?

MARDY FISH: That's what -- absolutely. There are tons of people, I'm sure. There are tens of millions of Americans that deal with it on a daily basis. There's a ton of guys in the locker room I'm sure that have trouble with it from whatever level it is, you know. I have spoken to some male and female players about it privately. Maybe they are just not comfortable, you know, right here with cameras on them talking about it. But I'm to the point now where, yes, it helped me and it helps me to talk about it. It used to help me a ton to talk about it. Now I've gotten to the point where I want to share my story so I can help.

Q. How close are you in your day-to-day life to ordinary days and ^ uninterpreted moments?

MARDY FISH: That's a tough accent to deal with (Laughter.) I'm fairly close. It's still a constant battle day to day sort of stuff. I think about it constantly. I work on the mental health side constantly. You know, this tournament is, you know, where it all came crashing down and where I have my worst feelings of my whole life was here. You know, that's a tough thing at my favorite tournament. So I sort of desperately wanted to come back and change that narrative. I feel, you know, really good. To answer your question, I have come a really long way. It's still a constant battle, but my life is back again and I can do normal things again.

Q. Ginepri just retired, as well. Have you been in touch with him?

MARDY FISH: He had a great career. He hasn't played recently. I haven't seen him all that much. We do keep in touch from time to time. He was a good friend for a long time out here, so it's nice to hear that he's, you know, come at peace with it and come to sort of a conclusion. This was his best tournament in 2005 where he almost made the final. So, yeah, it's a bumper, but, you know, next generation is upon us now and we are almost all gone.

Q. Can you share what was the feeling during the Simon match? Was it a feeling of doom or feeling of pressure of New York or what occurred?

MARDY FISH: I mean, it was just -- I think it was just the pressure of expectation, the pressure of the moment. You know, a lot of it had to do with the situation, as well, that specific situation of how late the match was. I was feeling so terribly at that time and not really aware of what was necessarily going on. I hadn't sought help at that point. I knew something was weird and off. So that was, you know, a really tough time, as well. It being really late at night, you know, and a lot of small things happened to where, you know, next thing I know I was off the court and in the doctor's office with an EKG unit stuck to me. Tough time.

Q. Do you think what you have been through might give you any particular perspective when you turn to coaching? Are there...

MARDY FISH: Am I turning to coaching? Okay (Smiling.)

Q. Are there any young Americans you'd like to work with if that happens?

MARDY FISH: I'd love to help out. Yeah, I am going to help out this offseason with some of the guys in LA, some of the Americans. I think I have a lot of -- I think I sort of have a unique perspective where I sort of know what the bottom feels like and kind of know what, you know, not No. 1 in the world but top 10 in the world feels like and how you can try to get everything out of yourself. I mean, specifically, there is a ton of great young Americans coming up. This is going to be a really good time in the next few years to see them grow. And, yeah, I'd love to help. I'm going to help and share as much as I can with them.

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