Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Capitals' Fish: 'I thought I was going to die'

Mardy Fish warms up between sets during the Sacramento
Capitals' match against Orange County in the Sacramento
suburb of Citrus Heights. Photo by Paul Bauman
   CITRUS HEIGHTS, Calif. -- After everything that Mardy Fish has been through, he deserves to have some fun.
   During the last set, men's doubles, of tonight's World TeamTennis match against the Orange County Breakers, Fish of the Sacramento Capitals somehow ran down a sharply angled volley and returned the ball with his two-fisted backhand.
   Fish's momentum took him almost to the sideline near the net. Instead of backtracking and joining partner Mark Knowles on their side of the court, which appeared to be a lost cause, Fish ran around to Treat Huey and Steve Johnson's side.
   Orange County promptly won the point with a putaway volley, but Fish and Knowles captured the set 5-1. 
   "I figured two against one wasn't going to work, and we were up pretty good in the match, so it was just instinctive, I guess," Fish said after Sacramento improved to 3-0 with a 22-14 victory at Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion. "It was fun to be a part of that match."
   Fish was otherwise serious in the match, showing the power and quickness that carried him to career highs of No. 7 in the world in singles in 2011 and No. 14 in doubles in 2009. He picked up his first singles victory after two losses, beating Johnson 5-3, and improved to 3-0 in doubles.
   Johnson, 23, was impressed with Fish.
   "He made a lot of first serves and hit the big shots when he needed to," said Johnson, who has cracked the top 100 at No. 97 only one year after leading USC to its fourth consecutive NCAA team title and winning his second straight NCAA singles crown. "I haven't played guys in the top 10, but he sure looked good."
   Fish said he felt "a lot better" than in the Capitals' first two matches.
   "I haven't played a lot, and getting into real match pressure is something you can't duplicate in practice, so it's great to get these matches here," he said.    
   The 31-year-old resident of Westwood in the Los Angeles area has battled an irregular heartbeat since February 2012.
   "It's been by far the toughest thing I've ever had to deal with in my life," said Fish, one of the nicest, classiest men on the pro tour. "It's a new experience for me coming back from these types of health situations. We deal with ankles and knees and arms and things like that. There are timetables as well that you can usually rely on, and I haven't had one. That's been really tough."
  Fish, a right-hander who had two operations on his left wrist in 2005, underwent a procedure in May last year for extreme heart palpitations that would wake him in the middle of the night. He didn't want to elaborate on his ordeal, but he told USA Today in May last year: "It felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. During days, I'm totally fine. I can track it and work out fine. But every time I would go to bed, my mind would start racing. Is this going to happen tonight? Is this going to be another night like that? It was super hard to go to sleep."
   The worst moment before his procedure came after a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Juan Monaco in the quarterfinals at Miami in March last year. Fish told USA Today that he awoke around 3:30 a.m. with his heart beating three times faster than normal.
   "I was completely panicking," Fish said of the 30-minute episode. "I thought I was going to die."
   Fish returned to the tour in late June last year at Wimbledon, reaching the round of 16, and played through the summer. He withdrew from his round-of-16 match against Roger Federer at the U.S. Open in early September for "precautionary measures," he said at the time.
   Since then, Fish has played in only two tournaments, in March and April. He returned to competition Sunday in the Capitals' season opener.
   Fish told reporters in Los Angeles in March that he still worries at night that the heart problem will return.
   "That is always going to be a part of me," he said.
   Fish, now ranked No. 61, said he will play in the Capitals' next two matches, at home on Friday and Saturday, and possibly two or three more next week. He plans to return to the ATP World Tour in Atlanta the following week.
   Fish's trauma has changed his perspective.
   "It showed me who's in my corner, who's most important to me, who was there for me when I was at rock bottom," said Fish, who's married with no children. "I went through a lifestyle change in 2009, lost a bunch of weight and turned my career around. ... I gained a lot of perspective then as well.
   "This is a lot different, obviously, but I'll have to get used to it and just work my way back."
   Kastles' streak ends -- The Texas Wild beat Washington 23-18 tonight in Irving, Texas, to end the Kastles' 34-match winning steak. Washington's last loss had come on July 22, 2010.
   The Los Angeles Lakers hold the record for the longest winning streak among major U.S. professional teams with 33 straight in 1971-72.
In Citrus Heights, Calif.
   Mixed doubles -- Mark Knowles and Taylor Townsend (Capitals) def. Treat Huey and Maria Elena Camerin 5-2. Knowles substituted for Mardy Fish at 1-0.
   Women's singles -- Townsend (Capitals) def. CoCo Vandeweghe, 5-3.
   Men's singles -- Fish (Capitals) def. Steve Johnson, 5-3.
   Women's doubles --Camerin and Vandeweghe (Breakers) def. Megan Moulton-Levy and Townsend, 5-2.
   Men's doubles -- Fish and Knowles (Capitals) def. Huey and Johnson, 5-1.

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