Fish's coach discusses tennis prognosis

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
12:13
PM ET
PARIS -- With Mardy Fish absent from the French Open, his coach, Mark Knowles, is playing doubles at Roland Garros.

Here's part of a conversation ESPN.com had with Knowles a day after it was revealed that Fish, the U.S. No. 1 and world No. 10, missed the French due to a heart condition that required surgery.

Q: I'm guessing you must have known for a while?

A: I've known it since he had the issue, right away. I couldn't say anything because we were kind of keeping it quiet. It's difficult, very difficult, especially for a guy who's been plagued by injuries his entire career. He's done an amazing job to turn things around and got in a position he wanted to be in. To have a major issue like a heart condition, we had many discussions about how we move forward healthwise. It's not like coming back from a shoulder injury or ankle injury. It's been really hard for him, obviously, not feeling well and also not feeling confident in himself.

Q: How has he approached it?

A: Since he found out, it's been a matter of trying to find answers. He's been as proactive as anyone, seeing the best specialists in the country, and hopefully he'll be back soon.

Q: Where does he go from here, tenniswise?

A: I've been fortunate not to have that issue and others haven't had it, either. We can offer opinions, but Mardy is the one that's feeling it. It kind of just goes from the most basic thing, his confidence, how he feels. He's a great player and can get that back instantly. But getting your confidence in your health ... it's a very physically demanding sport. It's not like golf or other sports where you can kind of bluff, and especially the physical shape he's been in the last two years, he's won a lot of matches on endurance.

Fish told USA Today he hopes to return at Wimbledon or even before then at a Wimbledon tuneup.

Petra passes first hurdle


After top-seeded Victoria Azarenka's first-round scare Monday, Petra Kvitova's coach, David Kotyza, was pretty relieved that his pupil didn't stumble in her opener.

Kvitova, seeded fourth, beat Australian up-and-comer Ashleigh Barty 6-1, 6-2 to reach the second round, where she'll face the younger of the Radwanska sisters, Urszula.

"Petra was very nervous, definitely," Kotyza said in an interview. "She knew she had to survive the first round, and actually she knew she's playing against a player of the future. For me, Barty will be a champion of the future."

Barty, 16, won the Wimbledon junior title last season, while Kvitova beat Maria Sharapova in the real deal, the ladies' final.

"A few days ago, we drove to the hotel together with Barty before the draw," Kotyza said. "I told Petra, 'This girl I'd like to watch because I like her style.' And then after the draw Petra told me, 'Hey, I'm playing against this girl!'"

"This girl" Barty possesses a nice all-around game. What she lacks in power because of her diminutive frame, Barty makes up for with court smarts and versatility. Better days, surely, lie ahead.

Ever since the end of the Australian season, Kvitova hasn't brought her A-game to the courts. Illness or injury affected the lefty in the Middle East, Indian Wells and Miami.

In Madrid, Kvitova was upset by her pal and fellow Czech Lucie Hradecka, and in Rome, an abdominal injury surfaced. Now she's dealing with a minor problem with her right shoulder. Kvitova had ice on the shoulder after the match.

"I think it's nothing serious and if there is one day rest between matches, I think it's going to get better and better," Kotyza said. "She always played well on this clay, and she knows she can compete with the best players. I think it was important to survive the first round. I look forward to her next matches."

Kvitova sits in the same half as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Next up for Novak is ...


Unseeded Blaz Kavcic will temporarily be thrust into the spotlight Wednesday. Why? Kavcic attempts to derail Novak Djokovic's Quest for the Quad.

What do we know about Kavcic, who is 25 years old? He hails from tiny Slovenia and is the highest ranked (99) of three Slovenian men in the top 500.

Kavcic eliminated former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in four sets in the first round, and if Djokovic topples, Kavcic would reach the round of 32 at a Slam for the first time.

However, in their only meeting, Djokovic won 6-3, 6-2 on clay in Belgrade last year.

A familiar face


Gaston Gaudio, the last man not named Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer to win the French Open, could be seen near the player restaurant Tuesday.

But you had to squint to spot him. He was without his familiar cap. His hair was down, and he had donned dark jeans and a T-shirt.

Although Gaudio turns 34 in December, he wouldn't look out of place portraying one of the students in a remake of "American Pie." His youthful appearance persists.

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London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.

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