Harnessing freedom: the spirited Djokovic defeats a heartbroken Fish

August 15, 2011 · Print This Article

by: Lyra Pappin

MONTREAL – After Novak Djokovic captured his ninth title this year by winning Montreal’s Rogers Cup, and simultaneously made history as the first player to win five ATP Masters titles in one season, the guy on the other side of the net, American six seed Mardy Fish, made hearts collectively wrench. Looking beat down and broken, Fish opened his press conference saying, “I’ve lost four of them, all in three sets. It’s really hard to take…I’ve never won one. I want it so badly. It hurts.”

For Fish, a win in Montreal would have been the biggest moment of his career; for Djokovic, it was one of a staggering 53 wins this season, another feather in the cap of a nearly perfect 2011 (his only loss came at the hands of Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open). Gut wrenching for Fish, yes, but as Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych have all said this week, “That’s tennis”.

Though Fish and Djokovic were sharing the court as potential heirs to the Rogers Cup, the distance between the two players is probably as great as the space that spans their respective counties. The Serbian, at 24, is a nearly unstoppable force on the courts. The culmination of a childhood spent dedicated to achieving dreams is in full force, and although it seems nearly impossible, there’s an air about Djokovic that suggests the best is yet to come.  “I’m still 24. I still have lots of desire to win,” he said. “[I’m] waking up every day wanting to improve, wanting to win, being determined, being professional. It’s that desire and motivation that keeps me going.”

What Fish can take solace in, is that he leaves the tournament at a career-high world number seven ranking, another clear sign that he deserves to be there.  After a lengthy injury set him back in 2009, Fish has made a name for himself as something of a comeback kid with a dramatic 30-pound weight loss and a renewed dedication to his game.

At 29, Fish might not be the youngest guy on tour, but for all the differences between him and Djokovic, they do have one thing in common: freedom. Djokovic is playing tennis with a paradoxical unfettered command, understandably built on the back of his sheer dominance this season. Fish, on the other hand, is playing the game with passion, and with the knowledge that he’s got nothing to lose at this point.

“Yeah, I wish I was 24, but I’m not. Everyone has regrets. I mean, it would be crazy if no one in this room had any regrets…I’m glad I figured it out, to look at that side of it. Look, I’ll just ride it as long as I can and as long as I’m healthy and playing good tennis. I’m having a blast.”

Follow Lyra Pappin on Twitter at @allthatracquet.

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