Mardy Fish healthy, rested and ready to go
Here's a grabber headline: Fresh Fish at the U.S. Open.
The story that goes with it is one regarding healthy habits that maximize an elite tennis player's chances for peak performance in major events. It's about Mardy Fish, the 30-year-old American veteran who shed 30 pounds after a 2009 knee operation, broke into the world ranking's top 10 for the first time, then was faced with a frightening irregular heartbeat earlier this year.
As he enters his 12th U.S. Open this week, Fish is feeling fine. He underwent a surgical procedure to deal with the heart issue on May 23 and steadily has worked himself back into match shape.
Better, he said, he is well-rested. While most of the sport's big names squeezed the London Olympic Games into an already busy schedule, extending a normally brief grass-court season, Fish chose to stay home and train on hard courts in California.
"I think it's a major advantage for me," he said. "I feel fresh and strong."
The short hard court run-up to the Open "is one of the reasons why I didn't go [to London," Fish said. "Also, the travel is so tough. We were just there at Wimbledon, then to come back, play Atlanta, go back over, and come back again without taking any weeks off, that's extremely hard."
Almost three months away from the tour, before Wimbledon, caused him to drop to No. 24 in the rankings. But Fish immediately advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon and has pushed to the semifinals once and quarters twice in three summer hard court events.
"Physically, everything is fine," he said. "Everything, as far as the heart, is fine. Just trying to keep my mind off it as much as I can, especially on the court.
"Heart rate gets up pretty quick, you know, when you're playing. Mentally, that's the hardest part. Your mind can take you into some interesting places, and you try not to go there."
"No regrets," he said. "I didn't go to Beijing [in 2008], either, But I've played the Olympics before. I was lucky enough to do well in 2004 and win the silver medal, so I've got a medal and I've got the memories from that.
"I think stress is one of the main reasons why you get arrhythmias -- stress, alcohol, caffeine, things like that bring them on. I went to Australia in January, to Switzerland and back to L.A. for Davis Cup, then to Marseilles and Dubai, then back to L.A.
"So I think we can draw conclusions how hard the schedule is and how tough it is on our bodies and minds."
It is logical, then, that all those Olympians seeded high in the Open -- Andy Murray, Federer, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, John Isner -- could be a bit worn down this week.
Leaving Fish angling for some good results.