At the Net: Fish makes long-awaited return

Philadelphia, PA ( - Mardy Fish is making his return to ATP World Tour action this week at Indian Wells, as he'll play his first competitive tennis since August 2013.

The 33-year-old will compete at both Indian Wells and Miami in two weeks and he will play some doubles alongside Maria Sharapova's beau -- Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov.

Fish, the former world No. 7, thought his tennis career might be over after a heart condition forced him to the sidelines, and he's battled anxiety issues since then.

He had been plagued by the anxiety issues since first experiencing his heart troubles in Miami in 2012. He underwent a cardiac catheter ablation procedure in June of that year to correct misfiring electrical pulses in his heart. But the mental issues over the ailment remained and panic attacks made the American reclusive.

Eventually, with the help of his wife, Stacey Gardner, and a combination of medication and therapy, Fish returned to some sense of normalcy. He even considered a professional golf career ... but just couldn't tennis out of his system.

In an interview for the New York Times, Fish talked about his mini-comeback as well as his mental and physical problems:

"Fish is still on anti-anxiety medication. He remains in therapy. He usually wears a heart-rate monitor when he practices. He has traveled outside the country only twice since competing at Wimbledon in 2012 -- to Canada and the Bahamas.

But he is light-years from where he was. He can sleep alone. He has pushed himself in practice matches without incident. Last month, he flew cross- country by himself.

'It sounds crazy, but that's actually a huge step for me,' Fish said."

Fish also said this won't be a full-blown comeback. Instead, he'll play Indian Wells and Miami and then reassess his status.

The Minnesota native, who owns six titles in 20 finals on the ATP circuit and won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, resided inside the Top 30 from 2008-09 before a rib injury forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open and finish the '09 season on the sidelines.

But he wisely used that down time to transform himself.

Fish dedicated himself to fitness and nutrition and lost 30 pounds in the process.

Not only did he slim down, Fish looked more athletic and confident in 2010. He ended that season with an impressive 40-14 record, including titles in Newport, Rhode Island, and Atlanta. Mardy just missed out on titling in Cincinnati that year, losing in a great final against Roger Federer.

He continued to reach milestones in 2011, soaring to a career-high No. 7 in the world and qualifying for his first-ever trip to the prestigious World Tour Finals. Fish went 43-25 that season, winning another title in Atlanta and landing in finals in Montreal (Masters) and Los Angeles. His most consistent year to date, Fish also reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal and secured final four berths in Masters tourneys in Miami and Cincinnati.

What can you say? He was in the midst of a late-career renaissance that saw him finally maximize his potential and enjoy his best results on a tennis court ... before everything came apart.

Because of his inactivity, Fish dropped out of the Top 1,000. He didn't play at all last year, though he did want to play doubles at the U.S. Open with his good friend, Andy Roddick. But because of a drug-testing rule, the two weren't allowed to enter the draw and Fish's comeback would have to wait.

FYI: Fish and former coach Mark Knowles managed to win a round in a Dallas Challenger doubles event last month.

Let's see what happens with Mardy over the next couple weeks in California and Florida. Win or lose, his comeback is inspiring.

He's already a winner.