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Mardy Fish: Defeating Demons A True Win

Indian Wells, U.S.A.

Fish© BNP Paribas Open/Billie WeissMardy Fish was elated after prevailing in his first singles match in six months.

“There is more to life than winning.”
 
In most cases, these are the last words professional athletes want to hear. Especially tennis players, as ranking points, prize money and pride are on the line every time they step out on the court. There is no tomorrow if they lose. And with only one player standing victorious at the end of a tournament, the competitive nature of the sport is unparalleled.

Today, Mardy Fish would play the role of devil’s advocate to those who put winning first. Battling a recurring heart condition, Fish was forced to step away from the game prior to his fourth-round match at last year’s US Open. Living with a fear of the unknown, Fish was unsure a return to the courts, his playground since age two, was in his foreseeable future.
 
“For the first three months after the US Open, I had retired and non-retired in my head almost every week.  And there was a while where I was done,” reflects Fish. “I had gotten it through my head that I was done when I was just trying to get my normal life back, just trying to have normalcy again.”

With a strong support system around him, anchored by wife Stacey, Fish decided after a six-month absence, he was ready to test the waters at the BNP Paribas Open. The 2008 runner-up believes Indian Wells provided the perfect environment to start things up again.

“There are a lot of reasons why this tournament made the most sense to try to come back for:  being in the same time zone; the same climate; no flight; it being a comfortable place; a place where I have played well before; it probably being my favorite event of the year, as well,” Fish says.

“And then I think two out of three sets and the sort of week and a half as well where you get some days off between matches, too. There are a lot of good things that will come [out] of coming back for this event.”

The Los Angeles resident officially began his comeback on Saturday, partnering one of his best friends on tour, James Blake, to a first-round doubles win. But Fish’s true test of battling the demons that have left him unsettled for nearly a year came on Sunday when he entered Stadium 1 court for his opening-round singles match against compatriot Bobby Reynolds.

Entering the encounter with low expectations, Fish won the first set, before Reynolds hit back to level the match and build a 4-2 lead in the third set. Suddenly, Fish’s will to win took over. He reeled off the final four games of the match to claim the victory, a turn of events the No. 32 seed didn’t anticipate.

“I certainly didn't expect to win, so soon,” says Fish. "The tennis side of it hasn't been an issue. I have been playing for quite a while now as far as months is concerned, but just competitive matches, you can't duplicate those.

"It's nice to just play, first and foremost, and then you get out there and you want to win. You want to stay within yourself a little bit and not get too fired up or too low or too high or anything like that.”

After everything he went through to get back to a winning moment on one of tennis’ largest stages, Fish was left with a slew of emotions, but as he describes, the one that came to mind was elation.

“There have been a couple of people that have really been there for me through these past months, and it felt good to play for them, as well,” Fish reflects. “My wife has been a rock at my side the entire time, so it's been very difficult for her. So it's nice to be able to play for her and her family who lives in LA and saw me at my worst times.”

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