McDonald: Fish Already A Winner As He Conquers His Anxiety

(Dave Saffran/Sportsday Wire)

It’s not easy dealing with anxiety. We all get it to various degrees, but when it comes to a professional athlete, it’s especially difficult.

For the last three years, that was Mardy Fish’s life. He withdrew from the fourth round against Roger Federer during the 2012 US Open due to a high anxiety attack and that was the last time the tennis world seen or heard from him, until now.

Coming back this year for one last hurrah, Fish has his anxiety under control and not just competing, but actually winning his first match at the Open, 6-7 6-3 6-1 6-3 against Italian Marco Cecchinato.

“It’s different for me right now because I realize this is my last event,” Fish said. “But I’ve got so many different sort of emotions going through that don’t have anything to do with that. That part’s a little tricky. I want to sort of embrace the whole thing.

“It’s just a little different for me because of my history here three years ago and just my history in the past three years. So I want to sort of take in everything and enjoy all aspects of this tournament, because it is so great, but sometimes it’s hard. I mean, you know, I haven’t played for three hours very long or very often since I have been back here, I guess, 2012. I haven’t hit tennis balls for three hours in practice at all.

“So, I mean, I’m naturally a bit — you know, you look at the clock and you’re a bit worried that, Can I last this long? You know, that just sort of spirals and snowballs into the other issues that I have to deal with.”

It can’t be easy for Fish to be here and he said he is on medication for his disorder. The American said talking about his anxiety is therapeutic, so his about 20 minute press conference most certainly helped today.

Of course, no one really knows how bad it is unless they experience it. Fish tied to explain it to the media to his best ability.

“Well, anxiety disorder is where your mind takes over and usually goes into the future and sort of predicts what you think is going to happen, and usually it’s bad stuff,” he said. “I had a couple of traumatic experiences to help that along and to sort of snowball that into some bad thoughts here in 2012 against Simon and in Miami 2012 went to the hospital.

And when does this happen to him?

“We deal with — I deal — when I practice or when I used to practice, I used to practice with a heart rate monitor on so I knew how fast I could get my heart rate down training-wise, how high I could go and then how low I could go so when you’re in that situation and you can’t control it,” he continued. “So, you know, we’re used to controlling, trying to control our heart rate as best we can, you know, so we can do it point after point.”

On a happier note, Fish will play another day. Like some of the other Americans of the recent past, who retired at the Open, there will be another tennis match in the second round for the Minnesotan.

“Just how much tennis I have had in the past, which is not much, you know, no match is for granted I certainly don’t expect myself to make a run like Andy did, you know, to the fourth round, quarterfinal, or whatever,” Fish said. “So I took it as this was my last match until I won, and then the next one will be maybe my last match.”

Then it’s back to the golf course for Fish. A scratch golfer, he’s ready to move on with his life.

But for the next few days, he’s back with tennis, hoping his ordeal with help someone else.

“The mental health stuff, I just hope to help people. Like I said, it helps me talk about it,” he said. “If it helps me talk about it, maybe it helps other people talk about it. I have heard from lots of people throughout the past couple years that are thankful that I’m doing it or am out front with it.”

“Tennis-wise, I don’t know. That’s not really up to me. I guess it’s for other people to decide where I stand in our generation.”

Already he’s a winner and hopefully, playing in Flushing Meadows one last time will gives him peace.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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