Vero tennis star Fish hired as Grand Slam commentator

Someday, when he’s old enough – and, he hopes, good enough – Vero Beach’s homegrown tennis star, Mardy Fish, wants to take a shot at playing senior golf on the popular PGA Tour Champions circuit.

His more immediate plan, though, is to continue making a living in tennis, working as a commentator during ESPN’s television coverage of the sport’s four Grand Slam tournaments in 2018.

Fish, who played professionally for 15 years and reached a career-high No. 7 in the ATP World Tour rankings in 2011 before retiring in 2015, said he recently accepted ESPN’s offer after what amounted to an on-air audition with the sports network at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last summer.

He also appeared as an analyst on the Tennis Channel during the summer of 2015.

“People I know seem to like what I’ve done so far, and they’ve been pushing me to do more of it,” Fish said from Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children. “And I’ve really enjoyed the TV experiences I’ve had, probably more than I expected.

“So when I had a chance to work with ESPN again, especially at the four biggest tournaments of the year, I decided to go for it,” he added. “This is a tremendous opportunity.”

Fish, 35, said he expected to be used as an in-studio analyst, offering opinions and observations based on his tennis experience, vast knowledge of the game and familiarity with today’s players.

Unlike the other former players on ESPN’s roster of tennis commentators – a list headlined by John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe, Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill – Fish has practiced with and played against many of the players he’ll be analyzing.

“ESPN already has a solid crew,” Fish said. “I’m not looking to take anyone’s spot, just to add to what they’re doing. I’ve played against a lot of these guys, so I can lend some expertise about their games.

“I’ll be there to add a little bit of wisdom and insight from someone from the current era of men’s tennis, which I think is important and will help the viewer.”

Fish, who will begin his ESPN work next month at the Australian Open, has worked with some of America’s most-promising young pros the past two years as a part-time United States Tennis Association coach.

However, he said he will not renew his contract with the USTA for 2018, because it would be difficult to juggle his TV and coaching obligations – and because he’s not sure how much of an impact he’s having as a coach.

“Helping develop young American players is something I’ve wanted to do, but it’s not as easy as saying, ‘Here’s my experience. You want it or not?’” Fish said. “A lot of the guys I thought I could help didn’t want it.”

He said he wouldn’t rule out coaching again, but, if he does, he would work with only one player at a time.

As for working at ESPN, Fish said he doesn’t believe broadcasting will become a full-time job, “because I still enjoy doing other things.” He plans to continue playing in tennis exhibitions, World Team Tennis in the summer and on the PowerShares Series senior tennis tour.

He said he also wants to “play as much golf as I can.”

Fish is one of the top players on the celebrity golf tour. He was the runner-up at the wildly popular, nationally televised American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, last summer, and he won the 2016 Diamond Resorts Invitational in Orlando.

He also has played in U.S. Open qualifiers and minor-league tour events.

“Golf is something I’m fairly good at,” Fish said, “without a lot of practice.”

Fish will fly from Orlando to Australia for the first Grand Slam tournament on the tennis calendar in January, after competing in the Mardy Fish Children Foundation’s annual golf fundraiser at Windsor and playing in this year’s Diamond Resorts event.

He said he will be as devoted to preparing for his ESPN broadcasts as he was for his tennis matches.

“I’m a little obsessive-compulsive in life,” Fish said. “If I’m going to do something, I want to be good at it. I don’t want to sound like an idiot. Just because you’re good at a sport doesn’t mean you’re good at talking about it.

“I’ve already been putting in some work, watching videos and analyzing what I’ve done before,” he added.

Fish, whose father, Tom, is the tennis director at Windsor, was enjoying a late-career surge when he was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia in 2012. He underwent a surgical procedure to correct the problem and returned to the courts later that year, only to be sidelined again by a severe anxiety disorder caused by the heart ailment.

It was the anxiety disorder that forced him to retire in 2015 and end a career in which he won 14 tour events – six in singles, eight in doubles – reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, and was a successful Davis Cup player.

“Tennis has pretty much been my life,” Fish said. “This is a chance to stay close to the game. I’m excited about the possibilities and grateful to ESPN for the opportunity. It should be a fun year.”

Besides, there’s plenty of time to work on his golf game: Life on the PGA Tour Champions circuit begins at 50.

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