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March 21, 2008

Mardy Fish


THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Well done, Mardy. Was that one of the most satisfying wins of your career?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, possibly. With someone like David's, you know, ability to come back and ability to win tight matches, you know, that one feels just as good as, you know, Hewitt does, for sure.

Q. Did it feel like maybe you lost it when those two match points didn't go your way?
MARDY FISH: You're never in a great situation when the guy is serving for the match. You know, I felt like I had some pretty good opportunities there. You know, score-wise I didn't really get into many points, except for many maybe the second set. At 4-All in the second set I had some chances there. I think I had three break points there.
He had played well on those break points and made a lot of first serves. When he didn't make second serves he hit some tough ones and I was able to capitalize on a couple of missed first serves there in the tiebreak right at the end.

Q. Mardy, why here, why now?
MARDY FISH: I don't know. I mean, you know, I've hired a trainer since last year at Wimbledon to try to stay as healthy as possible. This is the best my body has felt in a long time. That's got to speak volumes. You know, I'm probably stronger than I've ever been, and possibly fitter than I've ever been, so I feel great, I feel fresh.
I was saying to Kelly, it's been a long time since I've been -- played four or five matches into a tournament, and still my body feels really good.
You know, yeah, we had a couple days off there and lost first round of doubles, but that's got to speak volumes, as well.

Q. What's it been, massage or stretching?
MARDY FISH: No, we put a lot of work in the gym. Not much massage. We put a lot of work in the gym, and, you know, concentrating on my knees and trying to strengthen my arm and trying to take away some tendinitis that comes when I serve a lot on my biceps. And the patella tendinitis that a lot of guys seem to be having a lot these days comes and goes, but it feels great right now.
That's all attributed to Rory and I just getting into the gym and putting the work in.

Q. 3-4, 15-40; 4-5, 15-40 losing match points, dropping serve. What's going through your mind?
MARDY FISH: I'm thinking hopefully he'll double fault at 15-40 so I can win that game, and sure enough, he did.

Q. He comes out and serves for the match and you're a break down. You looked like you were done then.
MARDY FISH: Well, I mean, yeah. Yeah, I mean, I kind of felt like I was done, to be honest. You know, I had chances, you know, and just didn't -- you know, I'd be lying to you if I just said, yeah, I felt like I was going to break right there and win the match.
Again, yeah, I mean, I had -- I didn't give up, and I had some chances. I lost first point of that game, as well.

Q. When you and Kelly were talking about your struggles in tiebreaks earlier this week, what did he pick up on? What did he pass along to you?
MARDY FISH: He didn't necessarily pick up on anything, because he wasn't in Australia when I lost a couple down there. He was at the others in San Jose and Memphis and stuff.
But you know, he just gave me a few examples of some things that maybe I could think about when I'm in the -- you know, I just -- a lot of times, you know, I get into a tiebreaker and I think, okay, almost my work is done. I mean, I've gotten there, I've held serve. Oh, it's okay if you lose this set because you didn't lose serve, and we'll just keeping going in this match, anyways.
That's not really the right frame of mind to have. Try to stay as aggressive as possible, you know, within -- you know, but keep your margins pretty nice, and try to make a lot of first serves and just try to stay as positive and as focused as possible.
You know, all those things. Obviously you don't really think about, you know, all five or six during that time. But I try to think about the first serve for sure in the beginning. It's nice to start without an ace. You start up, and that's a good thing.

Q. When a guy has done the things you have in tennis - I'm thinking of your play on the Davis Cup team and things of that order - is it humbling to have to accept a wildcard?
MARDY FISH: In what?

Q. You have a wildcard into this event, right?
MARDY FISH: I don't. I was given a wildcard. I got in at the last minute. But to answer your question, let's just pretend I got a wildcard.
You know that I've got a lot of work to do. You know, I came into this tournament ranked 98 in the world. You know, my results from Memphis, after Memphis of last year all the way through New Haven were pretty pathetic in my eyes. You know, I feel like I had a pretty good start to the year.
I'm trying to keep my eye on - if I do look at the rankings - the race more than the -- you know, it's a marathon, it's not a sprint type cliché. And, you know, trying to keep my eye on that.
I know that, you know, this week before this match was my third quarterfinal in six tournaments, so it's a pretty good start for me, pretty good start for anybody.
You know, I know, again, I know that I'm a long ways away, but after -- whatever happens tomorrow, you know, should be probably around 50 in the world or so with not one match to defend until New Haven, which is in the middle of August. So it's a pretty good situation to be in.

Q. How did you get into this tournament if it wasn't on a wildcard?
MARDY FISH: Well, my rankings six weeks prior to this was 83 or 82 or something like that, and I was one of the last few in, I think.

Q. If you compare this tournament to Cincinnati or the Olympics ranking-wise, these last three matches are better quality players for the most part. So can we say this might be your best run ever?
MARDY FISH: Well, I mean, I made the finals of those tournaments. It's tough to say that, you know, if I don't win tomorrow that semi is better than a final. But, you know, I mean, some of these guys are -- Nalbandian, I remember when I played him there in the quarters. He had just come of off a finals in Montreal and lost to Andy, and Schettler was having an amazing year then. Philippoussis was playing pretty well back then, too.
I mean, it's tough to say. But, you know, I leave that up to you guys. This is a great -- it's a great run so far, and definitely well-needed, big time needed for me.

Q. Does it seem a little bit unfair that you play a match like that, your reward is to play the world's best player, and he's had a day off?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, as if he needs any more ammo, if you will.
No, I mean, you know, we've all gotten walkovers and we've all -- we have all been sick and we've all pulled out. But, you know, hopefully he'll be a little too rested, maybe. Maybe a little too...

Q. Do you think you'll have enough left in the tank judging on how you feel today?
MARDY FISH: Oh, yeah. I'll be fine. We're not on before 3:00 tomorrow, so that's almost 24 hours. And I am 26, so I'm still pretty young.

Q. You mentioned your forehand has improved, and it's pretty obvious to me. How did that happen? Did you do a lot of work on it?
MARDY FISH: Obviously, yeah. I mean, it's a shot that comes and goes with confidence, you know. Even if people say that my forehand isn't as good and I still feel confident with it, I don't, you know, I don't necessarily care.
I do feel like I'm hitting it, for some reason this week, better than ever. I think one of the attributes to that is that I'm much more aggressive this week, I feel like, than previous weeks. You know, I'm never going to beat Hewitt and Nalbandian from the baseline. Obviously I'm going to serve, try to serve as best I can and get my free points here and there.
But, you know, I'm never going to -- never going to beat them, break serve against them, from the baseline, just playing from the baseline. Just playing from the baseline and trying to stay solid.
So, yeah, you know, but again, I'm hitting my backhand really well, too, and that's a huge shot for me. That that kind of opens up the forehand for me, gives me some short balls when I take my backhand down the line. Opens up the court for my forehand, which I can go crosscourt or down the line.
Yeah, it's a confidence shot for sure, and confidence is pretty high right now.

Q. Can you talk about the company you're in in the semifinals? It's the top three players in the world. You're the Cinderella guy?
MARDY FISH: And me. (laughter.)
Well, you know, I guess the only thing you can go by is what your ranking is. I obviously don't feel like I'm the 98th ranked player in the world or playing like that. You know, I don't -- you know, I've got a lot of self-confidence. You have to out here to stick with some of these guys.
Yeah, I mean, it's nice. It's a nice breath to be in although it's just one tournament. Hopefully I can use this result no matter how it ends, to keep moving on.
Again, like I said, I don't have anything -- I didn't win a match on grass last year. That's my best surface. So I'm really looking forward to the rest of Miami and rest of here and through the year.

Q. You were talking about crowd support. Everyone loves a Cinderella. That has to be huge?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, they were huge. You know, again, like Doug said, it was tough to lose that one and get down and, you know, come back, but they were -- you know, they were there and supportive the whole way. I'm extremely thankful for that.

Q. It also must be nice to be the last American standing at a big tournament.
MARDY FISH: Yeah, I mean, you know, I guess it's not really nice. I mean, I'd like to have some of my buddies around.

Q. Yeah.
MARDY FISH: You know, I ndon't hang out too much with Rafa or Novak or Roger, but (laughter.)
You know, it would be nice to have James stick around and be in the other semifinal or playing him or whatever.
But, you know, I'll try to take it on for what it's worth.

Q. Judging by matches you've played against Roger in the past, what sort of mindset do you have to take into it? Do you have to play the way you have already this week? Do you feel you've got to do more because it's Roger?
MARDY FISH: No, I mean, you know, I just beat a guy who beat him the past two times. You know, the thing is you have to walk out there and you have to feel like you can beat him. I feel like I can beat anybody right now. I feel like I can win tight matches against really high quality players who are really tough, you know, in tiebreaks and third sets and things like that, and that gives you a lot of confidence.
You can't go out there thinking, Okay, this is a nice result. Let's think about who I play in the first round of Miami. I mean, this is not a situation that I've been in week to week and, you know, I'll definitely look forward to it.

Q. Did you think that two weeks ago?
MARDY FISH: What's that?

Q. That you could beat high quality players, 7-6 in the third?
MARDY FISH: I mean, it definitely helps to win one of those, and then -- you know, it really helps to beat someone like Davydenko 3 and 2 and have a shot of even being 1 and 2 and losing my serve 5-1 in the first set. To beat someone that good or that easily or that well, and play that well, that's top 5 in the world and is going to be top 5 in the world for a while because he's miles ahead of everybody else in the top 10, that gives you a huge amount of confidence right there to just feel like you can play with everybody.
And if I can beat someone like Nikolay, you know, 3 and 2, I feel like I can beat everybody. So that's a good thing.

Q. Is it a deliberate change in your strategy or technique between the way it is now than, say, a year or two ago, or just experience making things get better?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, I feel like having Kelly Jones come back into the mix -- I've never been higher ranked with him. I've never -- I had my results in Cincinnati and the Olympics when he was there.
I kind of maybe got away from my ultimate game plan, which is to stay aggressive. Excuse me, serve and volley some and try to, you know, take first ball strikes and things like that, not give anybody any rhythm is the key. And, you know, I got away from that. I guess I'm back doing it now.

Q. You'll be entering middle age as a tennis player pretty soon. Is there a maturity issue at play here when you look at the game now?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, sure. I think one of the things was when I had my wrist surgery in 2005. I was out that whole year and really gives you a nice perspective on -- it's not guaranteed. Nothing's guaranteed in this sport.
You know, everything you want and want to achieve you have to work hard for. Coming back from that, and my goal coming back from that, trying to get the comeback player of the year was a huge part of that. Getting that in 2006 meant a ton to me, because I felt like I took almost every opportunity I could. Stepped away from the sport and tried to understand, you know, what it was that I needed to do away from the court, on the court, things like that. And that helped a ton, as well.
But I mean, you know, just growing older and get are getting married soon, it all, you know, adds up.

Q. How much credit should Kelly Jones have for what you're doing?
MARDY FISH: He should take all the credit. (laughter.)
No, he's a huge part, because obviously it's nice to have a friend travel with you, first and foremost. It's nice to have someone who you trust. It's nice to have someone who's got a great game plan that works and that wants to implement the game plan that truly works.
And, you know, again, like I said, I got away from playing my game, playing aggressive, and playing kind of almost hit-or-miss type tennis and not giving anybody any rhythm. That's my style, and he was the one that came back in the picture and showed me how to do that.

Q. Do I understand that you worked with Kelly previously and you've gone back to him?

Q. How much of success against top guys, or just even being a top 10, top 20 player is actually loving the fight, committing to the fight, not worrying whether you're going to go out there three hours, 7-6 in the third, dropping match points, the ability to keep yourself in those matches?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, you'd be hard pressed to find people who don't love to compete out here. It's really hard to not want to win a match like that out there when you have, I don't know how many people were there, but it felt like 50,000 were cheering for me.
And, you know, it's really hard to not want to win that match and not want to try to come back. You know, everybody's competitive. It's such a cliché, Oh, he's so competitive. Andy is so competitive. James is so competitive. Everybody's competitive. Everybody wants to win. You know, you've got to want it more than the other guy.

Q. Trainers name?
MARDY FISH: His name is Rory Cordial.

Q. So what is it about you in Olympic years?
MARDY FISH: What's that?

Q. What is it about you and Olympic years?
MARDY FISH: Yeah, I had a nice 2004. I don't think that's kind of a coincidence, though. Maybe I could do it on a Davis Cup year and just do it every year.

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