Mardy Fish might want to add stockbroker to his post-tennis career plans after assisting in ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, preceding a strong bounce back day on Wall Street.
Fish is making his final appearance at the US Open before hanging up his racquet. The American stalwart is contesting his 15th main draw at his home Grand Slam. He owns a 25-14 tournament record, including a quarter-final finish in 2008 (l. to Nadal).
Fish opened a strong day for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which proceeded to recover following its early-week plunge, soaring 619.07 points. He was joined by WTA player Svetlana Kuznetsova and USTA president Katrina Adams.
The 2015 US Open commences on Monday.
MASON, Ohio — The last time Mardy Fish played in the United States Open, he departed crumpled in anxiety, fear and tears.
Facing Roger Federer in a marquee fourth-round matchup in 2012, Fish had a severe panic attack. He could not take the court and withdrew.
Three years later, he is back for one last hurrah — and a chance to give his disquieting story a softer landing. If recent form is any indication, his last event before retirement could carry on longer than expected.
This month at the Western & Southern Open here, Fish dismantled a top-20 player, Viktor Troicki, 6-2, 6-2, and then pushed No. 3 Andy Murray in two tight sets.
“I still got it a little bit,” said Fish, 33, now ranked outside the top 500.
His defeat of Troicki was his first tour-level victory in nearly two years. A Minnesota native who honed his tennis skills in Florida, Fish was a top-10 player and the highest-ranked American when his late-career surge was undermined by a heart problem in the spring of 2012.
Despite having a procedure in May 2012 to correct misfiring electrical currents that caused his heart to race, he developed a debilitating anxiety disorder. Fish had hourly panic attacks and was unable to travel, compete or leave his house at times.
In his first tour-level victory in nearly two years, Mardy Fish eliminated Viktor Troicki, a top-20 player at the time, from the Western & Southern Open in August. Credit Rob Carr/Getty Images
“Absolutely blindsided,” Fish said of his mental disorder’s sudden onset.
In fits and starts, Fish sought to come back. He tried to break into professional golf. He became a father last year. In March, he competed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
But he was not able to deal with the rigors and requirements of professional tennis.
In July, Fish announced on Twitter that he would finish his career in New York, as his friends and Davis Cup teammates Andy Roddick and James Blake had done in recent seasons.
Fish’s summer goodbye tour also included tournaments in Atlanta and Washington.
He fulfilled his desire to play doubles with Roddick, a high school friend, after they were barred from competing in doubles at last year’s U.S. Open because the retired Roddick could not meet antidoping protocols.
Fish also teamed with Grigor Dimitrov in Washington and Tomas Berdych in Cincinnati, but he does not plan to play doubles in New York.
Fans supporting Mardy Fish at the 2003 U.S. Open. Credit Shaun Best, via Reuters
Fans have treated him warmly, calling out, “Don’t retire!” and “We love you, Mardy!”
Fish said his summer tournaments had been fun and had lived up to his expectations — not that he was looking for anything in particular, beyond finishing on his terms.
“It was all for myself,” he said.
In American tennis, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang were a tough act to follow. They combined for 27 Grand Slam titles from 1989 to 2003.
Fish was part of the generation that arrived next. The leading men were Roddick, Fish, Blake and Robby Ginepri, who announced his retirement on Thursday.
Roddick, with his cannon serve and competitive tenacity, was the best of the group, reaching No. 1 and winning the 2003 U.S. Open. No American man has won a major since.
The Harvard-educated Blake, who ranked as high as No. 4, was known for his speed and explosive forehand; Ginepri, a 2005 U.S. Open semifinalist, was known for his grinding baseline play.
Mardy Fish, left, with fellow Americans Andy Roddick, center, and Andre Agassi at the 2004 U.S. Open. Credit Brad Barket, via Getty Images
Fish, sociable and sensitive, had a big serve, a smooth two-handed backhand and, in many minds, the most raw talent.
“If you want to talk about pure tennis skill and ball-striking, you can make a strong case that he’s the best out of that group,” said Patrick McEnroe, the Davis Cup captain from 2000 to 2010.
Fish reached a career-high ranking of No. 7 in 2011, captured six titles and won more than 300 matches. His best Grand Slam results were quarterfinal finishes at the Australian Open in 2007, the U.S. Open in 2008 and Wimbledon in 2011.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Fish won a silver medal in singles after leading the gold medal match against Nicolás Massú of Chile by two sets to one and a break in the fourth set.
“Very fair to say that that was the one match that really got away,” he said.
Fish believes he could have been a consistently elite player if he had discovered earlier the drive and discipline that propelled him in his late 20s and helped produce his best season in 2011 at age 29, when he qualified for the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
“I feel like I should have been better,” he said.
Mardy Fish training in March at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California before the BNP Paribas Open. Credit Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times
McEnroe said: “He turned the corner and made himself into the best player that he could be. If he had put in all the work earlier, he would have had a better career.”
Among his peers, Fish compares most closely to Blake, who won 10 titles and advanced to three major quarterfinals, but who had a worse record against the top 10 (19-55 versus 24-50) and did not win an Olympic medal.
Though Fish’s generation of American players is often criticized as an underperforming group, he defended its achievements. It produced a No. 1 player, a Grand Slam title, multiple appearances in the second week of majors and a 2007 Davis Cup championship.
At Grand Slam events now, he said, “we’re lucky to get someone in the fourth round.”
He said that American fans had been spoiled and that Roddick had never gotten his due. Fish also said he was glad to have competed in a golden age of men’s tennis.
“We might never see a generation like this where there is going to be three guys with double-digit Slams,” he said, referring to Federer, who has won 17 major titles; Rafael Nadal, who has won 14; and Novak Djokovic, who has captured nine and seems certain to win more.
Fish contributed commentary for Tennis Channel this month, and he plans to help the United States Tennis Association’s player development program at the training base near his home in Los Angeles.
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Fish said he wanted to be a “sounding board” for the promising group of young American men on tour, and to share with them the story of how he bolstered his career.
But accepting his retirement has not been easy. “It’s a death,” he said.
Still, he has made peace with the decision and harbors no regrets. So has his wife, Stacey, who helped him manage when his psychological disorder was at its worst.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said in a telephone interview. “Honestly, I’m most proud and excited for him that he’s out on the court on his terms.”
Fish sees opportunities to promote causes greater than tennis. He was among the first tennis players to affiliate with Athlete Ally, an organization that combats homophobia in sports.
Lately, he has also spoken publicly about his mental health struggles.
“Certainly I hope that I’m helping by opening up about it,” said Fish, who remains on medication for his disorder. “Everyone has got demons and stuff they’re dealing with.”
Fish’s best memory in Queens was reaching the quarterfinals in 2008 after having failed to advance past the second round in eight attempts.
In the round of 16, he beat Gaël Monfils in straight sets on Labor Day, which coincided with his father’s birthday. He got a taste of the Open’s electric night atmosphere two days later in a four-set loss to Nadal, who had been crowned Wimbledon champion months earlier.
Fish, who will play 102nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy in the first round Monday, fantasizes about a storybook ending in what promises to be an emotional close in front of many friends and relatives.
“Like a Connors, sort of, make it to the semis,” he said, referring to Jimmy Connors’s heralded 1991 run at age 39.
Fish laughed and adjusted his expectations: “No, I would like to not embarrass myself.”