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Lean, Mean & Very Keen


Fish© Getty ImagesAmerican Mardy Fish enjoyed a stellar summer campaign, reaching finals consecutively in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Montreal.

A slimmed down, fighting fit Mardy Fish is in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the first time. On a good day he’s one of the most dangerous players in the field.

He’s a new man. He’s leaner, meaner and mentally keener than ever before. But it took knee surgery, plus a long, hard look in the mirror, for Mardy Fish to get that way.

Two years ago, this American player was faring well, positioned inside the Top 30 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings. But he was hardly setting the world on fire. And tipping the scales at well over 200 pounds, during matches he was putting immense pressure on his joints. Eventually, in September of that year, he was forced to undergo knee surgery.

“People ask me, ‘Where was that moment where you changed everything?’” he says. “It was certainly after the surgery. That’s when you look at yourself in the mirror and say: ‘How badly do you want it? How badly do you want to give it everything you got just to see where you can get to?’”

“I went from playing tennis every day and eating what I wanted to barely being able to move and feeling like I was starving”

Mardy knew that if he wanted to recover quickly from surgery, and have a chance at competing with the big boys, he would have to shed a lot of weight. So he embarked on a strict diet, eventually losing over 30 pounds.

But why was he so far into his career (he’s now 29 years old) before he realised he needed to shape up? Why didn’t those close to him encourage him to lose weight years before?

Looking back at pictures of himself 30 pounds heavier, Mardy admits it was “drastic”. But he says his support team, including fitness trainer Christian LoCascio, “didn’t know any differently. That’s what I always looked like.” He jokes that the reason his wife said nothing was because “she was in love with me”.

So what are Mardy’s dieting secrets? He escalated his training schedule, of course. And he was very careful about the amount and type of carbohydrates he consumed, opting for vegetables instead of bread and rice. But it was also the timing of his meals that proved to be crucial. Once he’d finished his evening meal, he ate nothing else until the following morning. An extra incentive was that both his fitness trainer and his wife followed exactly the same diet. A personal chef was hired to ensure the correct food was always on offer.

Fish“It was really tough in the beginning because I went from playing tennis every day and eating what I wanted to barely being able to move around and feeling like I was starving on my diet,” Mardy told Men’s Health magazine. “After about two weeks it got better and I started to see some results on the scales. That’s when it started to get fun and became a game for me.”

The results have been fun, too. In March 2010 Mardy was ranked as low as 108 in the world. Just over a year later he had broken into the Top 10 of South African Airways ATP Rankings. This year he reached three ATP World Tour finals, in Los Angeles, Montreal and Atlanta, winning the latter. Mardy directly attributes this recent success to his improved fitness.

“I feel a ton quicker,” he says. “Thirty pounds will do that. The discipline was the main thing; the discipline that it took to lose the weight translated into everything that I do now in tennis – whether it be making the right choices, eating the night before a match, or being able to train two hours instead of an hour where I used to before – and do that consistently over a long period of time.”

While Mardy may not always have been as physically fit as he is now, sport has been a major part of his life ever since he was a little boy. After spending the early years of his life in Minnesota, he relocated with his family to Florida at the age of four. The southern climate meant he could be outside playing sport the whole time.

“The discipline that it took to lose the weight translated into everything that I do now in tennis”

“He has always been an incredible athlete,” his father, Tom, a tennis coach, told DEUCE Magazine. “He did not really choose tennis until he was 15 years old. I knew he was special but did not know what sport he would choose. He was good at all of them: baseball, golf, basketball and tennis.” Apparently Mardy plays golf almost off scratch.

As a teenager, he attended a high school called Boca Prep, in the Florida town of Boca Raton. One of his fellow pupils was none other than Andy Roddick. Later the two tennis players became housemates.

In 2008 Mardy married his girlfriend Stacey Gardner, a Californian attorney and a former model on the American version of the TV quiz game Deal or No Deal. The couple held a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony in Beverly Hills with fellow tennis pro James Blake as one of the ushers.

On that occasion, Mardy wore a very smart tuxedo. Nowadays it’s more than a little baggy on him.

This story also appears in the official Barclays ATP World Tour Finals tournament programme, which can be purchased here:

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