Fish ready to make a comeback
WIMBLEDON, England -- There are few better places to watch the world go by than at Wimbledon's premium practice courts, especially in the first week of the season's third major. The beautiful people come and go, with the lush green lawns and foliage behind the courts completing the idyllic scene.
Mardy Fish, the U.S. No. 2, didn't know whether he'd feature in the scene this year. Just last month, the 30-year-old underwent a heart procedure, cardiac catheter ablation, to deal with an irregular heartbeat.
The condition, Fish said, affected him overnight. After a loss to Juan Monaco at the Miami Masters, he woke up at 3:30 in the morning with his heart thumping at 170-180 beats per minute, he told USA Today.[+] EnlargeMichael Regan/Getty ImagesMardy Fish hit the apex of his career a year ago, but health scares have set him back in 2012.
"I thought I was going to die," said Fish, who had a career year in 2011 and qualified for the elite World Tour Finals in London for the first time.
He hasn't competed since early April, unable to achieve his target of playing at the AEGON Championships, a Wimbledon warm-up, earlier in June.
But Fish, looking several pounds lighter, returns to action at Wimbledon on Tuesday, when he meets Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, a clay-court specialist ranked 82nd.
We caught up with him after practice Monday:
ESPN.com: How is your condition?
Fish: Well, I never had any trouble during the day. I was certainly very apprehensive at night and have been for quite a while since Miami. But with each day it gets better, and the less I think about it, the better I am. This is really the first time I spent nights away from my own bed. That part was the hardest thing, gaining my confidence back and trying to go to sleep in other places.
ESPN.com: How are you sleeping now? Fish: No problems, and I shouldn't have any. I do all the right things. I don't drink anymore; a little bit of caffeine in the morning to wake me up. It's hard to stop that. Caffeine is about as addictive as anything. So I do all the right things and try to put myself in the best situations.
ESPN.com: When did you start hitting again?
Fish: I probably took 10 days off and then had a light jog on the track for a couple of days. Then I started practicing again. This was in the middle weekend of the French Open, and I wanted to go to Queen's. I entered last minute to try to play and wanted a tournament before Wimbledon, and being on grass would have favored me anyways. I just wasn't ready. I needed to practice a little more.
ESPN.com: Are you just happy to be here, or do you want more?
Fish: Definitely happy to be here but also want more. I have a good draw. But I'll take it one at a time. Realistically, I don't know. This is the best case for me surface-wise to come back on. Two out of three sets would be better than best-of-five, but it's not as taxing as the French. Maybe the French would have been almost impossible to come back that early. So we'll see. I haven't played a real match in a while. Practices have gone way better than expected.
ESPN.com: How hard are you going in practice?
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Fish: I'm going full bore. I went hard for a few days in Dallas when I was with [coach] Mark [Knowles]. We've done as much as we can. I just didn't want to miss this. I really missed not being at the French, not being at a Slam. That was the toughest of all of it as far as missing time.
ESPN.com: You seem to put a lot of pressure on yourself to back up 2011. How did that affect you?
Fish: There's no human that is exempt from the pressure of expectation. There's just no other way to put it.
ESPN.com: You don't think you put more pressure on yourself than other players?
Fish: There's a lot of people out here who put a lot of pressure on themselves, who work extremely hard and that want to win very badly. We all work very hard. But to answer your question, I definitely have put a lot of pressure on myself to not try to feel like last year was a fluke. I still have it in my memory bank. There were only eight guys to make the World Tour Finals. I won a lot of matches last year and did a lot of great things last year that I'll remember. I probably won't back it up this year with the way this year has gone so far.
ESPN.com: What about the rest of the summer?
Fish: This is the time when I stepped it up last year. I have a lot of points to defend, but I don't really worry about that anymore. I hit a lot of my ranking goals that I wanted to. I'm pretty content with the year I had last year. I don't really feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. I'll play the tournaments that I want to play. I'm getting older, and injuries creep up, and random things creep up with me, it seems. But I feel healthy now. I'm certainly happy this is my first tournament back.
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