Janko Tipsarevic from Serbia made a remarkable return to the ATP Tour after an injury to his left foot that almost ended his career. He hadn’t played in more than 500 days.
The 30-year-old has been out of the court for nearly 17 months after 2 operations were needed to remove a benign tumor, which, unfortunately, have stripped away “80% of his sole”.
But he managed to save 2 match points to secure a win against Guilherme Clezar in the US Clay Court Championship 1st round in Houston.
“I felt like this was a match I needed to win,” Tipsarevic said.
“I was ready, and I was fit. I had no confidence coming in, but saving match points with forehand winners down the line maybe proved otherwise. I really felt I had to win this match, and I would have been really sad otherwise.”
Tipsarevic – former world number 8 beat Brazilian qualifier Clezar 6-4 3-6 7-6 (9-7) in exactly two hours and 38 minutes.
“I’m in pain everywhere, but the foot is good,” he added. “I can tell you that we take [the muscles in our feet] completely for granted.”
Tipsarevic prepped for his comeback in Houston by playing a doubles match in Miami last week with his countryman, Novak Djokovic, as his partner. It was Djokovic’s idea.
“I would never have asked, “Tipsarevic said.
Even though the Serb seems to be in great shape, he knows that a 3rd surgery on his injured foot will lead to retirement.
Doctors still can’t assure Tipsarevic, who needed 2 hours, 38 minutes to top Clezar, another tumor won’t grow back in the same spot as the other two. And, if it does, he will have to retire. A third operation isn’t possible.
“My life would not be in danger,” he said. “But I could not play tennis again. Basically [the second surgery] took away about 80 percent of my sole. That’s why it took so long [to return].”
His compatriot Novak Djokovic tweeted a picture to say he was watching his friend online and wished him good luck.
Other first-round winners Tuesday were Jeremy Chardy from France, American Steve Johnson, Santiago Giraldo from Colombia and the South Korean, Chung Hyeon who is only 18-years-old.
Janko Tipsarevic vs Guilherme Clezar, 07/04/2015, 20:50 GMT, Match Center