Though Mardy Fish didn't finish the last match of his career the way he wanted to, he left the U.S. Open and the National Tennis Center Wednesday night on his own terms.
He played an old foe in the familiar confines of Louis Armstrong Stadium, comfortable with the fact that win or lose, this was going to be his last tournament ever. And it was.
The 33-year-old American, who never won a Grand Slam but did reach the top 10 in the world, lost to Feliciano Lopez, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, 6-2. He served for the match in the 10th game of the fourth set, but lost four straight points and then his body gave out. Playing the final set with limited mobility, the 3-hour and 11-minute match proved to be about a half-hour too long for him.
Fish made a comeback tour this summer and chose the Open as the final tournament of his career. It was at the Open in 2012 that he suffered anxiety disorder so severe that he pulled out of a fourth-round match with Roger Federer. According to his post on the The Players' Tribune website where he detailed his struggle with the condition, he suffered a panic attack during the previous match with Gilles Simon, the first time it had ever happened on court. After an extended absence from the game, he returned in March.
He was proud of his effort in the second-round loss, even if the cramps meant that he had to walk off the court without addressing a large and supportive New York crowd.
"I was starting to get a couple of twinges in my legs at the end of the fourth set, so I figured [the 10th game] was my opportunity. You know, I didn't pick a great time to play the worst game I played all day."
"I think he was the better player today," Lopez said. "He probably got a little bit tight serving for the match. And then the fifth set didn't exist because he was cramping and he was so tired from the heat."
Fish has been open about his anxiety disorder, and he said that one reason he came back to play this summer and retire at the Open was to show people that you can deal with it.
Lopez, also 33, was glad to see him come back. "It was very sad what happened to him two years ago when he left the sport all the sudden," he said. "But it was great to see him come back and play a few tournaments. We have been together many years and have played together many times . . . He's a good guy, everybody loves him."
Now Fish goes home to Los Angeles to play golf and work to help people with anxiety disorder. He has this to say to those who suffer what he has suffered.
"Just that you can beat it," he said. "That you can pull yourself back. It's always going to be part of your life, and you can pull yourself right back in the fire and come through. I think I showed that here at this tournament."