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August 24, 2007

Mardy Fish


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Can you talk about what it feels like now to be in your first final a very long time?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, it feels great, you know, with lack of a better term. You know, first of all, just beating him has been pretty tough for me, to say the least, in my career. You know, 0-4, and I think I might have bet beat him one time in a challenger when we were younger. But he's been a very tough customer for me.
You know, we were both extremely tired out there. I tried my best to bluff my way through it, and I felt like I did a better job than he did at that. You know, that kind of kept me in it, and I almost felt like, you know, kind of going out there this is almost like a one-set match really. Whoever wins the first set is going to have a major advantage.
You know, I got down that break and broke him at 15 when he served for the set luckily. You know, felt good from there.

Q. When you say you thought you did a better job of bluffing your way through it, you mean just showing a little more emotion or energy to psyche him out?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, showing that I wasn't tired. He played a 7-5 and 7-6 in the third yesterday, you know, and I played a three-setter and then a two-setter after that. So then to come back the next day -- usually you play a match like that maybe at a Grand Slam you get a day off, and to come back the day after and -- you know, I felt like going into the match he was the one that I wanted to play over Andreev because we were going exude a little bit less energy, you know, because we were going to play a lot shorter points.
I was a bit surprised that he was not necessarily that tired but showed me that he was that tired, and that gave me a little bit of confidence as well.

Q. Did he look more tired after losing the first set to you?
MARDY FISH: I felt like, yeah. You look over on the changeover and he's got the ice pack over his neck. I kind of pride myself being from Florida and training in Florida that this is nothing compared to there. And it isn't, but I have been here for a week and the weather's been pretty easy on us.
This was by fart hottest day since we've been here, and just happy to get through it.

Q. Happy to see him lose a lot of first serves and you were keying off his second serves?
MARDY FISH: I felt like that was going to happen eventually. I felt like, what I said before, if I won the first set he was going to get a little discouraged and a little down and more and more tired, and emotionally tired rather than physically tired.
Once your brain starts telling you that maybe I can't win this match anymore because I'm too tired, your legs are the first thing to go.

Q. There was a moment I think in the second set that he quick served you.
MARDY FISH: Yeah. I was not aware that he was going to do that, and he definitely would have had me. I wasn't ready for it. He missed it wide, and then he kind of gave a fake on the second one, and I was ready for that.
But I wasn't ready for the first one. So, yeah, I was just as shocked as you guys were.

Q. Talk about yourself physically. You were saying that your knees have been bothering you all season but they felt good this week.
MARDY FISH: They felt great this week. We've been putting a lot time on the training table and a lot of time in the gym trying to strengthen. We've been doing the same stuff every day being almost superstitious about what we been doing as far as the strengthening, the massage, soft tissue massage and stretching, a lot stretching.
You know, everything's worked, so it's been a very encouraging week physically.

Q. When you came here last year I believe you said you were hoping to use this as a springboard like James did in 2005. Is kind of ironic that a year later your words might be ringing true a little bit?
MARDY FISH: Well, yeah. I mean, James and I had similar -- not necessarily injuries but similar timetables when we were out. When I got hurt it was in Rome and obviously when he got hurt it was in Rome. They were a year apart.
I learned a lot from him and what he did going through his whole ordeal. How he handled it coming back, not off the court but on the court, you know, how he played. You know, how well he did coming back.
I finished the year last year 47 in the world. I thought it was pretty good, but a year after James does it he finishes 20 in the world doesn't look so good.
But I had one of the best guys out there to -- kind of as a role model in how to go about a year like we had timetable-wise and then trying to get back.

Q. If you win this tournament and then go to be top 10 will be writing a book next year?
MARDY FISH: I don't think I have quite as compelling a story as he does, nor can I write like that. I didn't go to Harvard.

Q. You talked earlier this week about being healthy for the first time in a long time. Go back through the year. How did the shoulder injury come about? I guess we know about the ankle from the field goal. What's with the knees? Is it just tendonitis?
MARDY FISH: The knees are the patellar tendonitis. A lot of players have it. If you kind of polled the locker a lot of the guys have it, especially on the hard courts. It's just so hard on your knees and you body.
The problem that I had was I had it in both knees, and that really hampered me. One day it was the right leg and, you know, I'd favor the left, and the next day it was the left. I just couldn't rectify it.
The shoulder thing was a fluke thing. It was, in my opinion, it was after the Australia trip Indian Wells and Miami I was looking forward to big time because I had followed up Australia and played well in San Jose and Memphis, quarterfinals and semis in Memphis, and got myself to I think 22 in the world going into those.
Just I hit one serve in the third set and my shoulder kind of went. I thought the worst right away. Kind of just served almost side-arm to finish the match and eventually lost 7-6 in the third.
You know, immediately went to get an MRI and showed that it wasn't severe. That was encouraging, but it kept me out of Miami, and I took an extra week off to get ready for Houston. As I said yesterday, Houston was a big week for me in my first time going back to defend the title.
Then getting on the clay wasn't so good there. The ankle didn't help. I was looking forward to getting on the grass and being healthy and feeling pretty healthy for the grass. Playing Karlovic in the first round of Queen's and playing Nadal in the first round of Wimbledon and being the first guy out from being seeded to playing Nadal in the first round. You know, could have had a better draw in both of those for sure.
Then the summer was just the knees and a couple weeks here and there to rectify. Hopefully we've got it right now.

Q. You called the trainer today. Was it your arm, shoulder?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, my arm. The shoulder was feeling a little heavy from yesterday serving so much and just this week. I mean, I haven't played this many matches in quite a while, and it takes a little bit of a toll, you know, on your body.

Q. What would be like if you end up playing James in the final?
MARDY FISH: I think it would be great. You know, he's my best friend out here. I've played Andy twice in two finals: One in Cincinnati and one in San Jose. Two good matches. I've played Andy six or seven times and only played James twice, which I think is shocking, and both of them were in first round of a tournament. We haven't had a chance to really play a big, big match.
You know, if he were to win tonight that would definitely be the case tomorrow. It'll be fun for sure, especially here. It would be interesting to see the J Block, because a lot of those guys are good friends of mine as well.

Q. He says he likes playing his friends and some players don't. You have the same opinion?
MARDY FISH: Well, we've played -- we live practically on the same street in Tampa and we practice pretty much every day when we're home. I think maybe apart from Andy just from practicing with him since I was 15, you know, I know -- James and I know each other's game like the back of our hand. We can pick out, you know, what we need to do, and I'm sure he knows what he needs to do.
I think that -- in that way it's a little bit easier because we know exactly what we have to do. And you can kind of, you know, you don't get too pumped up. You can kind of stay within yourself, and a lot of times that helps as well.

Q. Has your friendship gotten stronger because you've helped each other through the adversity?
MARDY FISH: Yeah. I mean, when I came to Saddlebrook in Tampa where we train, I think it was in 2000 maybe, that was where I just met him. We were pretty, you know, close right away. Spent a lot of time together.
You know, from there so I don't know if we've gotten closer, but we've definitely used each other to lean on each other for sure.

Q. You been getting the support from his following a little bit.

Q. Talk about being, you know, able to get a home court advantage, so to speak.
MARDY FISH: Yeah, like I said, those guys, from being so close to James and coming up here and spending 4th of Julys with his friends and family two or three times and winning the egg toss with him once on the 4th of July you get to know those guys pretty well.
So they -- one of his buddies was, I think maybe the instigator of the J Block, was down in Australia this year kind of by himself and came to all of my matches. You get to know those guys a lot, and they're all fun and they're all good guys. So it will be interesting to see how they'll act if we do play.

Q. Who's doing your laundry tonight?
MARDY FISH: I don't need to do it. I gave it to Thomas, James' brother yesterday, and then I took it back. Because I didn't know -- because if James lost they were going to go to the city, and so luckily he won and we did it somewhere else.

Q. Are you planning to play tactically against James or Mathieu tomorrow?
MARDY FISH: Well, James is -- the story with Mathieu, he's an extremely good counterpuncher. Runs and moves very well. Hits very well off both wings, you know, and one of those guys that kind of takes it -- he doesn't necessarily take it to you, he let's you take it to him but he plays very good defense.
James is, you know, one of the biggest forehands in the game, fastest guys in the game, and has his weapons for sure. Try to get it to his weaknesses as much as I can.

Q. Do you approach a match with a good friend differently?
MARDY FISH: I don't necessarily know if you approach it differently, but once you get out there, you know, you -- speaking -- I played Andy in the quarterfinals in the Australian Open this year. It was a little bit weird because you joke around with him right before the match, and then you go out there and it's one of biggest matches that I've played. And to play Federer in the semis of a Grand Slams is pretty big match.
We were a little uneasy as to should we fist pump, should we not? James and I aren't extremely vocal on the court. Maybe not nearly as much as Andy is. So I think that maybe our personalities, it would be a little bit easier to play each other.

Q. What are James' weaknesses specifically?
MARDY FISH: Well, I don't know if weakness is the best word for it, but he's got shots that are less good than the others. His backhand is not as good as his forehand, but like I said, his forehand is one of the best in the game.
You know, are you going to tell him? What do you want me to tell you? I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do to play him.

Q. Sounds like you have a rooting interest. You'd like to see him get there tomorrow.
MARDY FISH: Absolutely. I think it would be really cool to play James in the finals of a big tournament. That's the best way I can put it.

Q. James can be very focused during a match, talk to himself a lot. You say you practice against him all the time. Does he do that in practice, or are you going to see a James that you don't normally see?
MARDY FISH: No. I don't think I'm going to -- I think just from seeing him play so much just in matches and just watching, going out to watch him play, you know, and rooting for him, you see what he does and how he pumps himself up and how sometimes he gets down on himself. You see it.
I've seen hundreds and hundreds of matches that James has played over the years, so I don't think I'll see a different guy for sure.

Q. Being in a final, is it going to change -- do you think tonight's going to be any different than some of the other nights getting to this point? The preparation, just dealing with the night before the final.
MARDY FISH: Just going back home?

Q. How you're going to feel tonight, what you're thinking?
MARDY FISH: To be honest, you know, you don't really look at, you know, when you get to a tournament you don't look at the schedule on Sunday. Usually it's Sunday. This time Saturday. And say, Okay, I'm going to be here at 7:00 on Saturday night playing.
I'd love to be. You know, when you say I'd love to be there playing this, playing well right before a huge tournament in the US Open. But you don't -- you'd like to be there, so almost in a way it feels like there's a little bit of a weight off your shoulders. You made it to the match you want to be in, you know, and it's a little more relaxed.
The semis and the quarters are a lot tougher because it's a good tournament, but it's not the goal. And the goal is to -- obviously the goal is to win. But, you know, to get to that match. Hopefully if it is James, you know, it will be pretty fun.

Q. You had a very strong Australian Open tune up this season and it obviously paid off. Are you hoping for the same sort of thing, that everything here is going to bode well when you get to New York?
MARDY FISH: Yeah. Winning five matches in a row here, winning five matches in a normal round when there's 32 guys in it is going win the tournament, five matches. And it's not every week that you win five in a row, and you definitely have to take confidence in that. And it is nice that it's happening right before.

Q. Regardless of whether you win or lose, how mentally prepared are you for the Open?
MARDY FISH: I think I'm extremely prepared now. I think I'm -- I'd say I'm match-fit now, which I couldn't say before it tournament. Physically I felt great. But there's a difference in being able to run 100-yard dashes and running side to side on the court.
You know, it's nice to get a bunch of matches under my belt before that. But as I said before, going into this tournament this is a big tournament for me. There's a lot of other things going on. I wouldn't have -- if I didn't do well here or the US Open I wouldn't have gotten into the main draw of like Madrid or Paris six or seven or eight weeks down the road. Those are also big tournaments for me as well, so it's nice to know I'm in those.

Q. Your girlfriend almost got as much face time as you did. Are you surprised by that?
MARDY FISH: No. She's a very pretty girl. No, I'm not surprised.

Q. Do you ever say, Deal or no deal to her?

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