Last month Mardy Fish was widely quoted as saying that he didn’t want, to put it politely, to sit on his rear end while he was still a top ten player. The American No.1 was referring to the frightening heart scare he suffered during the early hours of the morning following his defeat to Juan Monaco at Miami in March.
This afternoon, in his first competitive match since undergoing a medical procedure last month for heart arrhythmia, he remained true to his word, carving out a 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory over journeyman Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in two hours and 37 minutes.
Although the 30-year-old showed no outward sign of any physical ailments during the duel with his Spanish opponent, concern spread around the media room when the American failed to show up for a post match press conference.
According to an official, Fish had been “feeling unwell” since the match and had opted out of the customary media Q&A session.
A quarter-finalist here last year, Fish admitted he feared for his life when his heart rate accelerated to three times its normal resting rate three months ago and recently told the New York Times that he frequently wears a heart monitor when he goes to sleep if he feels uneasy – just for peace of mind.
It remains to be seen whether the heart condition is the reason for his feeling under the weather after the match, but there were certainly no obvious warning signs during his meeting with 34-year-old Ramirez-Hidalgo, who just happened to be the oldest man in the draw.
Fish generated an astonishing 61 winners, compared to just 18 for the Spaniard, and fired off 24 aces. Even so, the world No.82, who has spent the majority of his career playing on the challenger circuit, managed to hold his own in a deep-hitting baseline game to force a tie-break in the opening set – the instant Fish’s talent shone through. Aggressive net play helped earn the American a string of set points and he claimed it with a blistering forehand winner.
Ramirez-Hidalgo, who follows up every strike of the ball with an exaggerated moan, matched Fish in pace and power for much of the second set but a wobble in the 11th game cost him dearly. The No.10 seed broke the Spaniard’s serve to love and did the same on the subsequent game to pocket the second set.
By the time Fish had raced to a 4-0 lead in the third set tie-break it became clear that the Spaniard had failed to learn any lessons from the punishment he had been dealt in the opening set tie-break. Ramirez-Hidalgo managed to generate a winner on the very next point but it proved to the only one he would earn and he pelted a ball wide on match point to hand Fish the match.