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January 15, 2007

Mardy Fish


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Mardy.

Q. When you got your hands over your head, what's going through your mind there?
MARDY FISH: Oh, I was pretty excited, to be honest with you. You know, I played a lot of really good matches last year, and was on the losing end of most all of them. I played a great match today. I knew I had to play well. I knew I had to serve well.
Put myself in a position to, you know, win the match. I was real focused. Been working a lot with that, the mental side, with Todd. All that stuff's paying off.
You know, I was just excited. I was just excited, you know, it was a great opportunity for me to play someone like him and show everybody that I can play, you know, that I'm back. My ranking doesn't show exactly how I'm playing. It does take time to get back up there from 350 in the world. I'm inching my way back.

Q. What does Todd say about closing out matches?
MARDY FISH: It's not so much closing out matches as, you know, staying focused, you know, matching my opponent's intensity level. I played a guy like Mario Ancic last week who is extremely tough mentally. If you can match his energy, he says, if you can match his energy, stay focused like he does, I think you'll have a pretty good shot at winning. Sure enough, I did.
Today was no different. I was real fired up out there. I think I let that show. I let Ivan know, you know, that I was here and I wanted to win. I wasn't just, you know, first-round walkover. He's good, man. I played him in 2003, at the beginning of the 2003. I've obviously seen him play on TV, but I haven't hit with him since. He's got a big serve. I was real impressed with his game.
If you don't dictate play with him, he's going to kill you, so...

Q. What does it say to you about yourself to beat a top player at a Slam, given everything you've gone through?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, I'm just happy. I'm just real happy that I could do it at a place -- at a big tournament like this. Playing last week, I played well last week, beat Mario. It's a great win for me.
Every tournament's big. But this is obviously bigger than last week. Beating guys three out of five sets, you know, in the top five, is awfully tough. Two out of three is obviously tough as well. It's tough to win three tough sets against someone like him.

Q. How did you react when you saw your draw, Ljubicic?
MARDY FISH: You know, I said, That's a tough draw, to be honest (smiling). That's a tough draw. I haven't been seeded in Grand Slams for a while - I think since 2004 US Open. I've had some pretty good draws, to be honest with you. I played some qualifiers, some guys ranked around in the 70s, 80s.
You know, I've had some good luck. I had that in the back of my head, as well. I knew eventually, you know, the luck of the draw was going to get me.
But, again, I saw it as an opportunity. I saw it -- I feel like I'm playing well. I feel like if I can have everything click, you know, starting with the serve, then having the forehand that I changed, hitting that well, anything can happen.
You know, a combination of getting a little bit of luck there in each of the third and fourth sets, getting some breaks, just trying to put a lot of returns in play. I got a little lucky.

Q. What have you learned about yourself through this process of rebuilding your game?
MARDY FISH: Well, I mean, it was a long -- I kind of think back to 2005, end of the year, you know, after the US Open when I got my second surgery. That was tough. The first one was a couple months. You know, everybody gets it. Not everybody gets surgery, but everybody is out for that particular amount of time. It's not every time you have to have two surgeries on the same thing. That was tough mentally. It was real tough.
Took a little bit of time off after that second surgery to maybe find myself, I guess, figure out exactly what I needed to do, set out a plan. The only good thing about that was that I had a timetable. I knew exactly when I was going to get back. I knew I had a tournament, you know, a goal.
I worked really hard. I stayed on top of my fitness off the court a lot. I didn't practice all that much on the court because I was real limited to what I could have done. I worked real hard off the court with Pat Etcheberry. I've continued to do that throughout. Watched James have that great year in 2005, coming back from what he came back from. Kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps. He finished 20 in the world, and I finished 47.
I thought it was a good year. A little unlucky to have it come after James' year. You know, I found just persistence. Todd and I worked real hard in the off-season. I went up there by myself and worked with him for a couple weeks. Changed my forehand completely. That's helped a lot.

Q. What do you mean? You don't think you got the credit you deserved?
MARDY FISH: I don't know necessarily that. Just personally, it kind of takes away. I felt like maybe I took away from myself a little bit of what I did. It was my goal going in to try to win the comeback player of the year.
I figured that if I could do that, that meant that I'd done something. I don't know, I didn't really care about the respect, getting the respect back necessarily, but convincing myself that I had a good year.
We all want to do just as good as James does, just as good as Andy's doing. He's a great model of persistence, what we can strive to get to. I mean, he's playing unbelievable tennis, as you all know. We're real happy for him. It's great.

Q. It's not that easy to change a stroke completely when you've been playing one way for a long time. Why did you decide to do it and how quickly did it come?
MARDY FISH: Because the forehand was terrible, first (smiling). I played guys -- played a few guys, I won't name names, but I played three matches in particular that I remember most that just hit every shot to my forehand. I wouldn't see a backhand. I was frustrated.
I knew that it was something I needed to change. The first day that Todd came down to Tampa, the first day I was back practicing -- I took two weeks off, started again -- and the first day I was back, I said, Can we change it? Can we do something?
He's like, Okay, let's do it. From then on -- I think that was middle of November -- so from then on, we've been working on it every day, with Scott every day here.
You know, it feels great. It felt great from the first day. From the first day, I thought it was better. I thought, Okay, I can go out and play right now and it's still going to be better.

Q. It's a grip change?
MARDY FISH: It's a grip change and the take-back change. Take it back lower. It was lost. I was lost. I had no confidence whatsoever, and I needed to do something.
Now it feels great. It feels just like another shot. Feels like I can hit winners off of it. It feels great.

Q. It's more low to high now?
MARDY FISH: Yeah. I didn't have much trouble with the low balls off maybe a slice, because I have to get under it. I have to go. It's the high balls that I had no pace. I just lost complete confidence in it.
Now every shot is low to high. It's funny, because my dad always taught me that when I was 10 years old: Look through your strengths. That's what I'm doing now.

Q. The opening game break, you finished that off with a forehand?
MARDY FISH: Yes. The fourth set?

Q. Yes.
MARDY FISH: Yes. I knew today, I had to -- if Ivan gets initiative, takes initiative, you're toast. I felt like I was hitting my shots deep. My shots were penetrating real well.
He's the kind of guy that if you have an opening on his serve, you have to take it, you have to be aggressive. That was my mindset.

Q. It's been a while since we could say six American men on one side of a draw during a Slam.
MARDY FISH: Yeah, it's been a while. Andy and James are definitely doing their part. The Bryan brothers are definitely doing their part. I'd like to say that I'm taking my sweet old time to get back up there, inching my way.
It would be nice to have one -- obviously take it one at a time. It would be nice to have one big result to get from 40 to 20 or whatever, really get back up there.

Q. Did Andy say, Thanks for knocking Ljubicic out of my quarter?
MARDY FISH: I haven't seen him yet, but I'm sure he will (smiling).

Q. How much has he been helping you emotionally through this period of time?

Q. Yes.
MARDY FISH: He's a great friend. When we get around each other, we tend to talk more tennis than not because, you know, he loves tennis. There's some guys out here that don't watch tennis. I don't think James watches much tennis at all when he's away from the game. He watches it here, watches us play, watches his buddies play. But I don't think he watches much tennis. Obviously, he loves the game, whatever.
Andy and I love tennis. When it's on, I watch it every time. Women's tennis, whatever, I watch it. We talk more tennis than you think. He's just a good friend. He's someone that I can always go to, always ask any question, and he'll always come up with an answer.
You know, I haven't maybe necessarily utilized him as much as I should have in the past year, but he's always there. He's always there to lean on.

Q. Do you think that was a big mental win for him over Federer the other day, or do you throw it out because it's an XO?
MARDY FISH: No, I don't think you throw it out. I watched it. It was a little windy. No, you definitely take that. Maybe if they play here, he gets up early, he can remember stuff that he did. They were both trying.
Roger, he doesn't want too lose, even if it's an exhibition. He definitely doesn't want to lose. Maybe he wasn't taking it completely as this week. But he doesn't want to lose, for sure.

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