An unresponsive treatment and the monotony of the long rehabilitation almost convinced Yuki Bhambri to hang his racquet for good but a voice within kept telling him that he could still pursue the game he is so passionate about.
His perseverance, months of hard work and patience has now prepared him for another plunge.
Since October 2018, Yuki has consulted Indian, American and Spanish experts spending Rs 40 lakh for the treatment of a torn tendon in his right knee but it was not before he met Australian specialist, Doctor Ebonie Rio that he got the belief that he is ready for a comeback.
One of India's best singles players in recent times, Yuki has announced his return from yet another injury-forced hiatus by entering the ATP 250 Singapore Tennis Open, starting next week.
"The option was, be done with tennis or try and get back. I felt there is still a lot of time left in me, so you come back and try again. There is no right or wrong, either you cry over spilt milk or try getting back," Yuki told PTI in an exclusive interview.
It's not the first time that Yuki has ended up losing a lot of time when his career that seemed heading for heights. An elbow injury and a knee injury before also halted his progress when he had cracked top-100.
This time it took him almost 27 months to get back to competition mode.
"Definitely, there are days when you struggle, doing the same exercises again and again, it gets monotonous. There were certain times in 2020 when I thought maybe I won't be able to make a comeback because I had done about every possible thing for my knee and it was not working," he shared his mental struggle.
"I had, fortunately, a lot of people for support but a lot of it has to come from within. Eventually, you have to do it yourself. Late 2019, when I was in Spain for treatment and it was not working, I was really down," said the 28-year-old.
But why it always takes him such a long time to recover from his injuries that has marred his career. "Every time I get injured it takes time to heal. If doctors says it will take one month, it will actually take two months, if he says six months, it will take eight months. This is something that I realised from my experience with injuries. So, mentally, I am a bit more prepared (for longer rehabilitations).
Yuki has trained only in Delhi for last one and a half years with Aditya Sachdeva. It's more about getting back in shape. He is spending almost three hours on courts and 90 minutes in gym. But there is a concern as he gets for the Singapore Open.
"One thing I don't have is absolute quality practice with quality players. I was in America, playing at a certain level. In Delhi, I have hit mostly with juniors. I feel ok but I don't know what level I am at. It's different pace, speed. That is I am looking forward to see where I am at," he said.
Playing at his peak towards end of 2018, Yuki appeared destined for bigger things but he hit another roadblock in his stop-start career.
"It is difficult but after a certain point there is nothing I could do about it. Everybody knows, I am also pretty sure that I would have been top-50 in 2018, If I had played the whole year because I had the whole hard court season ahead with that American swing and the European swing. I was performing at the highest level."
"In the last two months, I picked up the pace. I have got my rhythm back, if not completely, it's 80-90 per cent. Some days it will bother, but not really to trouble me much. I don't have to take many days off. It's pretty used to the rigours of working out. I felt it's time to try and get back on the courts."
Yuki also shared how he ended up taking treatment from different experts, spending a lot that he had saved from the prize money earned. "I got in touch with a tendon specialist in Australia in March 2020 because the job was not done after I spent 3-4 months in Spain. I also consulted Indian and American experts, I was all over. To some extent it (knee) responded to the Spanish expert but it was little bit stuck. I still needed to change my exercises more to keep continuing specific work.
"Dr. Ángel Ruiz-Cotorro is the surgeon in Barcelona who did my procedure which helped and Dr Ebonie Rio was my rehab specialist who really helped me get back to playing. The Australian was more about having a more polished rehab routine." Yuki will play with his Protected Ranking (127) which will allow him entry in nine tournaments in six months or 12 tournaments of his choice in as many months as per ranking eligibility.
While he struggled mentally and physically in the last years and a leading sponsor ended the contract with Yuki, Babloat did not desert him. Not only the racquet contract was kept, Yuki was also given clothing contract.