So spent was Mardy Fish that he could barely take in the magnitude of the moment. Sitting behind the microphone in Interview Room 1 somewhere in the nether regions of Arthur Ashe Stadium, he was still feeling the after-effects of a five-set, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 second-round loss to fellow tricenarian Feliciano Lopez.
Not only had he just played his final match at the US Open, it was the final match of his decade-and-a-half-long pro career, one in which he’d won more than 300 matches, six titles and an Olympic silver medal. But the physical exhaustion had taken a toll.
“That probably wouldn't have happened a few years ago,” offered Fish, who was making his first appearance in Flushing Meadows since anxiety attacks led to a fourth-round withdrawal in 2012. “I probably would have been fine in the fifth set. I worked as hard as I could. My body is just about done. I gave it everything I had.”
It looked as if the Mardy Fish Farewell Tour might roll on for another day when a key fourth-set break sent him to the line to serve out the match at 5-4. But the American was broken at love, as Lopez took advantage of three unforced errors and a double fault. Two games later the 18th-seeded Spaniard evened the match at two sets apiece.
It was in the fifth and final set, after going toe to toe with his opponent all afternoon, that the veteran began to feel the effects of fatigue in the soaring humidity. Serving in the sixth game of the stanza, he began to cramp. He called for a trainer during the changeover trailing 4-3, but none appeared. Asked if he considered retiring right then and there, Fish waved off the inquisitive reporter.
“I wasn't quitting. I was just cramping,” he said. “Both sides of both legs, if I moved anywhere close to three or four steps, two or three steps, it would go. So, no, you would have had to carry me off the court. I was definitely not stopping.”
Effectively playing on one leg, Fish was subsequently broken at love. With his opponent all but immobile, Lopez served out the match with ease and Fish’s career had come to an end. If not the outcome, Fish said he will cherish the memory of the occasion. After all, he had given his all.
“Those are the situations you work so hard to be in – just an awesome crowd, and it's a really nice memory to have on my final match. Obviously, not the last set, but my final match.”