Mardy Fish walked on court Sunday for his first professional singles match in six months and eight days, his first match since beating Gilles Simon in the third round of the 2012 US Open. He was forced to withdraw from his US Open fourth round match against Roger Federer last September when the heart condition he revealed earlier last year flared up once again. It’s been a long road back but Fish finally made his 2013 debut at the BNP Paribas Open, a short trip from his home base in Los Angeles. Fish was first up on Stadium 1 on Saturday against compatriot Bobby Reynolds. It wasn’t the cleanest or easiest match Mardy Fish has ever played, but he left the court victorious after three sets, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. He described it as a, “win just to get back out there.” Fish was the number one American player for much of 2011 and some of 2012, having taken the helm from Andy Roddick who would go on to retire last year. He is a much needed presence at a time when younger Americans like John Isner and Sam Querrey have been struggling.
When asked about his feelings after the match, Fish called it, “elation probably.” He went on to say it wasn’t just about winning, adding, “there has 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. My wife has been a rock at my side the entire time, so it’s been very difficult for her, as well.”
Sunday’s match actually wasn’t Fish’s first appearance on court at this year’s BNP Paribas Open. He teamed up with fellow American and good friend, James Blake, to take on Spanish duo David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco in doubles on Saturday. Blake said he was, “honored to be the one that’s out there with him when he comes back because I know how hard it’s been. It’s been a long journey for him, and I hope I really, really hope that it’s easier for him to be out there with me, with someone that you know, I like to think of myself as one of his good friends out here that cares about him more as a person than any results will ever speak to.” Perhaps playing with Blake did bring back some of the good old days because the pair won the match 6-4, 6-4.
Andy Roddick was certainly paying attention to his good friend Mardy’s return on Sunday, tweeting, “Hell yes @mardyfish !!!” just after the match’s completion. Fish was asked to comment on the absence of his good friend Roddick who wasn’t playing the tournament for the first time in over ten years. Being the same age, the two players grew up together on tour. The two even attended the same high school. The biggest difference for Fish? “I miss the free meals from him because he has way more money than we all do.” Just kidding. On a more serious note, Fish said he missed the “silent cheering from afar for us both” and having a breakfast companion. The two would eat breakfast together every morning at this particular tournament.
Mardy Fish is taking things slow. He will play Miami and then assess whether he wants to continue on to the clay court season. As for this tournament, Fish will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round, who took out James Blake on Sunday night.