American tennis player Mardy Fish announced his withdrawal from the 2013 US Open yesterday, referencing his continuing struggle with health issues that first surfaced in March of 2012. The news isn't unexpected—Fish has yet to play in a Grand Slam event this year and has only entered five other tour events (posting a less than stellar 3-5 record)—but missing the US Open is yet another setback to his comeback hopes.
I feel bad for Mardy. Like any professional athlete, he's dedicated most of his life to honing his craft. He was at the pinnacle of the game, cracking into the top 10 for the first time in April of 2011. Except for a few weeks in that same month, Mardy remained in the top ten right up until May of 2012. He was playing world-class tennis before heart trouble derailed his season—and maybe his career.
After May, Mardy's ranking began a steady decline down to his current ranking of 173rd in the world. While that's nothing to sneeze at (hey, I'd love to be ranked 173rd in the world at anything), it's got to be a bummer for such a great athlete who has been to the top of the mountain. With serious health issues in play at the relatively advanced tennis-age of 31, you know the 'R' word is rearing its ugly head. Even so, it'd be great to see Mardy get healthy and finish strong.
Aside from Mardy's personal goals, his withdrawal is a blow to American tennis in general. He stepped up his game big-time as Roddick began to slip. Without the heart troubles, it's highly possible that Mardy could still be the American #1. Whether he would have ever seriously contended at a major is tough to say, especially in such a Golden Age of men's tennis. And while he probably wasn't going to make a big splash at this year's final Slam—considering his low ranking and lack of match-play for the year—it still hurts when one of your country's most talented, most decorated, most experienced players pulls out of the event. That leaves John Isner and Sam Querrey holding the bag even more than before. Don't get me wrong, both of those guys have shown that they're talented and Isner has certainly demonstrated his guts during the Marathon Match, but I'm not sure either one is going to have a break through—at least not this year. Of course, there are a few young American men in the pipeline, but Ryan Harrison hasn't made a great impact so far and Jack Sock is still pretty green.
For those of you who are counting, the last time an American won our home slam was in 2003 (Andy Roddick). While our drought can't rival the one that Andy Murray just snapped in Great Britain—or even the title droughts in France and Australia—it's still certainly starting to stretch on for American tennis fans. If I'm being honest, I don't think we'll see our drought end this year. Luckily, there's always next year. Here's hoping that Mardy Fish can get healthy for next season.