Andy Roddick celebrates after his first-round win.
© Julian Finney/Getty Images
Mardy Fish in action during his first-round match.
© Julian Finney/Getty Images
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
LONDON, England - Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick have known each other since they were kids and are still very close, practicing together, watching NBA games together and double dating with their wives.
Both have had tough stretches as of late, with Fish recently having gone through a heart procedure and Roddick having dealt with slew of injuries since 2011.
Both are also into the second round of Wimbledon, with Fish having powered past Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 and Roddick having overcome Jaime Baker 7-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Fish is 30, Roddick is 29 and neither entered Wimbledon as top-drawer favorites. But if things go according to plan, both are capable of playing high quality ball and leaving the site with smiles on their faces.
Fish is the second highest ranked American at No. 13, but he hadn’t played since April until Tuesday. He underwent a heart procedure in Los Angeles on May 23 in an attempt to resolve a form of arrhythmia and he is still lacking fitness, because there were days when he wasn’t allowed to exercise or practice. But his biggest challenge is to get it into his head that the procedure really worked and that he can go at 100 percent again.
"The toughest part is just getting your confidence back of trusting everything" said Fish, who reached the Wimbledon quarters last year. "When I don't feel well now, I automatically go to the struggles that I have had in the past couple months, and that hopefully will change over time. It's gotten better. But in the past few months I have stayed home every day. I have felt comfortable. This is sort of out of my element. So naturally I don't think I'll feel as comfortable. I'm not sleeping in my own bed and things like that. The hardest part is just trusting that everything is fine, because it is, and everything structurally is fine."
Former No. 1 Roddick, who couldn't seem to play more than a few matches this year without getting hurt and saw himself fall out of the top 30, felt for Fish. It is one thing to be dealing with injuries to your limbs and another not to know if you are going to wake up the next day.
"My thing is a hamstring. It's less scary than a heart thing," Roddick said. "I was less concerned about tennis at that point. I just wanted him to kind of get it under control. I know he struggled not only when it acted up, but also not knowing when it would come again, and then you're dealing with the mental aspect of traveling. It's been an ordeal. I know it's been really hard on him. It's unfortunate timing, too. He's on the heels of his best year last year; he's gotten his ranking up. My hope for Mardy is he gets back into it pretty quick, gets some matches under his belt, and is able to not only play well here, but prepare himself for a long summer. I'm just glad he appears to be okay."
Fish is a little older than Roddick, but holds him in high esteem and even when he surpassed him as the U.S.'s No.1 ranked player for the first time last year, he would still say Roddick had always been the most mentally tough of their peer group and the guy who would always lay it on the line in big matches.
Three years ago, Roddick came within two points of taking down the great Roger Federer in a 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 loss in the Wimbledon final. It was the best the American played in three final round defeats to the Swiss at the All England club, but he still couldn't squeeze out the win. Fish felt for him.
"I think a lot about my struggles with the Olympics and how I struggled to come back and have really good memories about it when I was so close to winning the gold medal in 2004," Fish said when asked about the Roddick vs. Federer 2009 final. "Then I just can't imagine how difficult it is for him to come back every year after that. We have never really talked about it, because I know how much he wanted to get that second Slam. I know how badly he wanted it to be here and how close he came. I can't imagine how difficult it is for him to step on the court, and I'm sure he thinks about it a lot. He does an amazing job of redirecting the pressure that's on him and the pressure that he puts on himself."
When told of Fish's comments, Roddick was straightforward about how he has learned to approach losses. If he was to continue at a high level tennis player, he would have to put his hard hat on and somehow put the defeat behind him. It wasn’t easy, but Roddick worked through it.
"I'm a tennis player. Tennis players play Wimbledon," Roddick said. "Some of my best memories are from this tournament. Regardless of the fact that I didn't get it, it's a place I really enjoy."
Last week in Eastbourne during his title run, Roddick went over the 600 match win mark. It was the first crown he had won in 16 months, but he could take solace in the fact that he has now won at least won crown for 12 straight seasons, and of current players only Federer has done that.
Fish, who will next play Britain's James Ward, is looking at his tournament on a day-by-day, match-by-match basis. He says that his friend has earned tremendous respect in the locker room for how consistent he's been, how he doesn't walk around the locker room cocky and just goes about his business.
It's too premature to project either man far into the tournament given what they have gone through, but Roddick is more confident on grass than he is on any other surface. He’s in No. 4 Andy Murray’s quarter, whom he has beaten at Wimbledon before. He has some long strides to take but he's not going to go on court, hope to play his best and feel just fine if he fights hard and takes a loss. That ultra-completive Roddick that the U.S. fans know will be a tough out for anyone he goes up against.
"The whole reason you play is to try to win something," he said. Winning is fun; losing sucks. I don't know that that will ever change. I don't think I've ever here to go through the motions. I think I have maybe a little bit of a better perspective now. There are things that are probably more important to me at this point in my life on a personal level. When you're 21 you don't know all that exists, but it doesn't mean you work any [less] harder. It doesn't mean the losses sting less in the moment."