Q&A: Mardy Fish
New U.S. Davis Cup captain
Ashley Marshall | January 9, 2019
Mardy Fish will become the 41st captain in U.S. Davis Cup history when he leads Team USA into the 2019 World Group Final later this year. USTA.com caught up with Fish to discuss the strength of American men's tennis, what makes Davis Cup so special and his fondest memories of representing his country.
USTA.com: How excited are you to be named Davis Cup captain?
Mardy Fish: To say the least, I’m very excited to even be considered to be a Davis Cup captain. Ever since I started playing professionally and started understanding what Davis Cup was and how special it was, even as a player, I wanted to be the Davis Cup captain. I just thought that position was so cool, leading the guys, leading the team and building the relationships and the team aspect around it.
I’m a team-sport athlete stuck in an individual sport, I guess.
I love the team aspect of Davis Cup; it’s very, very rare in our game. We’re very selfish athletes, tennis wise, and you have to be, but being a Davis Cup captain is the exact opposite – building the relationships and friendships and trying to figure out how each player is different, each personality is different, and trying to get the best out of each one.
I know the players really went to bat for me, as well, which is incredibly special and something I won’t take for granted. I’ve built a lot of friendships and good camaraderie over the years with the guys. I’ve been rooting for those guys for a long time, even while I’m playing, and so it’s incredibly humbling to be considered and to be named the captain.
USTA.com: Looking at the team you’re inheriting from former captain Jim Courier, how would you describe the state of American men’s tennis?
Mardy Fish: I think it’s in a great spot. We’ve got three guys just off the top of my head that are going to be the future of it. Reilly Opelka is playing some great tennis and is someone who is incredibly scary for some players – the idea of a 6-11, 7-footer with the kind of serve and forehand that [John] Isner has, with some crazy athleticism, as well, on that side. And working a lot with Taylor Fritz over the years and working closely with his coach David Nainkin – he used to be my coach; he took me all the way from 350 in the world, when I had a knee surgery, all the way to No. 7 in the world and the World Tour Finals – so I’m aware of what Taylor has done and continues to do over these past few years. And Frances Tiafoe – his upside is incredible, his athleticism is incredible.
Just good kids, man. Just really fun, good guys that like each other. I think they are going to be the future of our Davis Cup team for a long time. We have a bunch of guys right now that have a lot of matches under their belt in terms of [Sam] Querrey and [Jack] Sock and Isner and [Ryan] Harrison and Steve Johnson and the guys that are the now of Davis Cup in the U.S. Molding those two generations will be fun and enticing as a captain, no doubt.
USTA.com: Have you had a chance to think about how you’re going to balance that combination of veterans and the "win-now" mentality, while also bringing up the next generation of Team USA, like Frances and Taylor?
Mardy Fish: I’ve thought about it a lot, even over the past 48 hours I’ve known I was captain. The guys, Isner and Sock and Querrey and Johnson, have been around for a long time. Even though Sock is 26 years old, he’s the now and the future of Davis Cup. Molding those two together, if that’s the hardest part for me, I’m in for a pretty good ride, for sure.
To read more about Fish's appointment as Team USA's captain and to relive his Davis Cup career in pictures, click here.
USTA.com: When you came onto the Davis Cup team, you played for Patrick McEnroe and later for Jim Courier. Is there anything you learned from their coaching styles that you’d like to incorporate into your own style?
Mardy Fish: They’re all unique in their own way. I was a practice partner [in 2000] in Santander, when Johnny Mac [John McEnroe] was the captain, so I’ve seen all of them over the years. Tom Gullickson was a good friend of mine, so I’ve seen Captain Gully, who was a renowned captain and a very well-liked captain, just picking all of their brains.
I’m friendly with them all – with Jim and P-Mac and Johnny Mac, spending a lot of time with him with ESPN and some of the exhibitions on the senior tour. I’m going to learn a lot from them. I respected Jim Courier maybe more than any other player, the way he went about his career, how he went about Davis Cup, in general. What an incredible work ethic and someone you look up to so much. I was so excited when I was the No. 1 American and he was named our captain. I couldn’t wait to play for him.
It helps that I have coached a little bit over the past couple years because, a lot of this job, you can get the guys in the right frame of mind, and everyone can be happy and healthy and in a good place, but the bottom line is you have to win, as well. You get a unique opportunity to sit on the court and talk to these guys throughout the match, so it will be new for me, but I think I can bring a lot of value in that regard.
USTA.com: Can you speak to some of your more memorable matches you played for Team USA, whether it was the debut against Slovak Republic with James Blake in 2002, the mammoth matches against Colombia in 2010, or the last match you played against Switzerland, when you played Stan [Wawrinka] and Roger [Federer] in 2012?
Mardy Fish: The first one, obviously, James is one of my best friends in the world, so starting with him and Andy [Roddick] on the team and having that other guy Pete Sampras was a pretty cool experience. To play with James, to win, to be so familiar with him – we were probably even living together in Tampa – so pretty cool. Andy and I, obviously, lived together growing up when we were 16 years old, so just an awesome fun time.
Playing in the Davis Cup final in that opening match in ’04 in Seville, playing in the corner of a soccer stadium, even though I didn’t win, was one of my greatest memories, even though it didn’t go well for me or us.
There were very few that really understood P-Mac’s last tie [2010 World Group playoff vs. Colombia] and him crafting his last lineup and what we had to deal with, with the altitude and the balls and the clay. We played in a bull ring in that, too. That was very interesting, to say the least. Winning three points there and being the first American to do that since Pete Sampras was pretty damn cool, man. Probably one of my best moments in my career, period.
Then going into Switzerland, lastly, and playing my last singles match, beating Wawrinka on the clay, Isner beating Federer on the clay, and beating those guys 5-0 was pretty sweet.