CHENNAI: OUT of all the quirky statistics that caught the eye during the recent Australian Open, one stood out. In the seven matches Rafael Nadal played at Melbourne, he was broken by only two players: Novak Djokovic and James Duckworth, the Spaniard’s first-round opponent. When it’s put to the World No 239, who is in the city to take part at the Chennai Open Challenger beginning on Monday, he smiles.
Having spoken about the same thing on social media, the Australian, who turned pro in 2010, knows about the fact.
Even if he’s yet to win a competitive match on the ATP World Tour this year, he says that performance against Nadal has given him confidence. “I had a few tough draws to begin the year,” he tells The New Indian Express. “I played Andy Murray in Brisbane International and Nadal obviously.
“Thought I played okay in both matches. For sure, it (raised my confidence after playing well against Rafael Nadal) did. I competed very well.”
In fact, he rues the way he handled a couple of points. “There were a few points that I would have liked to have again. Maybe if I had executed those a bit better...” In a parallel universe, the 27-year-old may well have executed those points to perfection.
For the former top-100 player is only just coming back to full fitness after losing more than a year to an assortment of injuries, surgeries and rehab. Between the beginning of 2017 and 2018, he went under the knife five times as he spent more time on hospital beds rather than on tennis courts.
The grimace never leaves his face when he is talking about this period of his life. “It was a really tough phase,” he explains. “I started to play good tennis. And then, yeah, I had five surgeries (thrice in the right foot, right shoulder and right elbow).”
All those constant breaks from playing meant his ranking, from a high of 82 in 2015, plummeted to outside the top 1000, by the end of January 2018. “I was out of the game for a long time. I didn’t think about quitting but that period was tough. Just lots of hours of rehab and physio...” Now that he has been injury free for more than six months, he has made getting back into the top-100 an immediate priority.
The next seven days will reveal whether that’s an attainable goal or not.