Lighter on scales, Fish rejuvenates his game

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A leaner Mardy Fish looks back at pictures of himself from as recently as last year and feels embarrassed.

The 28-year-old American has unloaded 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) since last season and the lighter frame has helped turn him into a heavyweight on the men’s tour and rocketed him from 108th in the world to the 19th seed at Flushing Meadows.

Fish overcame a punishing first-round five-set encounter against Jan Hajek at the U.S. Open on Tuesday and afterwards praised a grueling pre-season training program for enabling him to finally realize his talent.

Prior to this season, Fish boasted just three titles on the men’s tour. But he added two more in 2010, with the impressive scalps of Andy Murray and Andy Roddick along the way.

Now, Fish told reporters he wonders what his wife Stacey was thinking when she decided to marry him.

“I look at pictures. Some pictures I look OK and some not - it’s almost embarrassing as a professional athlete. It’s crazy how I got away with it,” he said after his victory.

Knee surgery prompted Fish to shed the pounds and cut out a passion for burgers and pizza, a decision that has transformed him as both a player and a person.

“I feel like a completely different person and I’m playing like a completely different player,” he said. “I’m able to do things that I’ve never been able to do before.”

The new diet and training regime has not been plain sailing and Fish is occasionally tempted to revisit his old ways.

“I saw a Domino’s Pizza commercial the other day - that looked really, really good,” he said.

The impact of Fish’s new abstemious lifestyle led five-time U.S. Open winner Jimmy Connors to describe his impressive form as “better late than never” but the player himself refused to have any regrets about his past indiscretions.

“It’s really hard to dwell on some of the mistakes I’ve made before ... and I’m not saying they’re mistakes as I’ve had a great life and had a lot of fun,” said Fish.

“Sure, I always wanted to be in better shape. I’ve always worked hard, it’s just I’d go until I was tired but I got tired a bit too quick, and I wasn’t dedicated enough on some of the things I needed to do.”

Editing by Frank Pingue