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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ahead of the start of the U.S. Open Championships on Monday top-ranked American tennis star Mardy Fish said anything to do with the sport holds center court in his workout routine.
"I'd say three-quarters is tennis at this time of year," Fish, who is ranked eighth in the world, said of his daily regimen. "A lot of it is playing matches. Obviously we'll practice most every day if we're not playing."
On matchless days he'll often hit the court for a two-on-one workout.
"There are two guys on one side and I'm on the other and they'll just run me from side to side," he said.
During a match, he explained, players run in short, quick bursts -- back and forth and side to side -- so that's what he trains for.
"Then we have to recover in 20 seconds and do it all over again, for three hours," Fish said." We don't run 400-yard (meter) dashes on the tennis court."
Fortunately, Fish added, he's been playing a lot of matches lately, so the downtime, which is usually no more than a week or two, is spent trying to stay healthy and consistent.
"A lot is maintenance," said the Minnesota-born right-hander, who turned professional in 2000.
Fish is 25 pounds lighter than he was when had knee surgery in 2009, explaining that he was too heavy to be at a high professional level in his sport.
"So I set out to change my diet and my lifestyle and make the right choices," he said.
When he's not on the court he's routinely on the training table "rehabbing" his shoulders, knees and legs.
"They're just little exercises that don't take very long," he explained. "But if I neglect them my shoulder will struggle with the heaviness of the ball."
Fish, 29, describes his style of play as aggressive.
"I've got a big serve, a hard serve, and quicker points as opposed to longer points," he said.
And while he hasn't gone to a gluten-free diet like his No. 1 ranked Serbian colleague Novak Djokovic, Fish insists on his chosen pre-match and post-match energy drinks.
"I'm superstitious as far as stuff around the courts," he explained. "I'll eat the same things and drink the same things, and have the same breakfast in the morning."
In high school Fish played baseball, basketball and golf. He said while he never burned out on any of them, he doesn't regret his decision to pursue the hard-focused life of a professional tennis player.
"I'm pretty lucky. I know I'm really good at what I do, and it's fun for me," he said. "I don't look back."
But he is looking forward to the 2011 Open, his hopes buoyed last week by a victory over 2010 champion Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati.
"I'm on a career high right now. Anytime you can beat a player that's going to go down as one of the best of all time, that's a good win," he said. "I'm playing better than I ever have.
When asked if he can go all the way, Fish was unequivocal.
"Of course," he said. "I've been playing as well as anyone this summer. You've got to dream big."