Dominic Thiem expects a Roger Federer-like comeback from Novak Djokovic but not necessarily from the other injured top players who were sidelined during the 2017 season.
Djokovic will make his long-awaited return from an elbow injury in Abu Dhabi this weekend, at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, appearing for the first time since Wimbledon last July.
Federer, who was out of action for the second half of 2016, enjoyed a stunning comeback this year, winning the Australian Open in his first official tournament back, and adding a 19th major to his tally at Wimbledon a few months later.
Rafael Nadal also had injury problems during the 2016 season but stormed to the No. 1 ranking this year, winning two Slams himself.
Djokovic, and other players who have missed time on tour due to injury in 2017, like Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori, will all be looking to make successful returns in 2018, but Thiem believes it won’t be a walk in the park for all of them.
The Frenchwoman was forced to pull out of an exhibition event at Wimbledon last year because of the virus, which medical experts said was so rare they had no name for it.
But on Tuesday Bartoli announced that she would return to the WTA Tour in 2018, aiming to be ready for the Miami Open in March, after recovering from the illness despite losing 20kg of weight in a matter of months.
“If what happened to me in 2016 hadn’t happened, I don’t think I would have had that strong feeling of wanting to come back to the court,” the 33-year-old said.
“The start of this all came on the most difficult day of my life, when Wimbledon decided not to allow me to play the legends’ matches because they thought I could have a heart attack and die on the court.
“From then on, I swore that if one day I was healthy again, I wanted to try to relive what I had been lucky enough to live three years before when I won the tournament.
“What saved me at that time was tennis, by hanging onto the great moments that I lived on court — that’s what kept me alive.”
— WTA (@WTA) December 20, 2017
Bartoli’s finest moment came when she beat German Sabine Lisicki to win the 2013 Wimbledon title, but she hasn’t played since after retiring due to a shoulder injury.
The former world number seven, who was also beaten by Venus Williams in the 2007 Wimbledon final, is confident that setting a return date for March isn’t too optimistic.
“Mid-March seems realistic with the amount of training to be done,” she said. “The day I play my first match will be a huge victory after what I’ve been through, and what I do on the court is just a bonus.
“In terms of tennis, I’m at about 80-90 per cent of my level from Wimbledon 2013 and physically I’m missing about 40 per cent of that level, which at the same time is and isn’t a lot of work.”
Dominika Cibulkova plans on playing a fewer number of tournaments in 2018 to protect her body, the Slovakian ex-world No. 4 has revealed.
The 28-year-old Cibulkova has made adjustments to her training and has tweaked her schedule for next year, to avoid overplaying and injuries.
“It’s something we’re going to do this year. Even I’m skipping Brisbane and I’m just going to play Sydney and Melbourne in Australia,” Cibulkova told Sport360 during her preseason training in Dubai.
“I’m planning to play just a maximum of 18 tournaments. Last year I played 23 or 24 so it’s going to be a big difference for me and if I will do well then I’ll just play like 15 tournaments. So let’s see what 2018 is going to bring.”
Cibulkova had ended 2016 on a high note, winning her biggest title to date at the WTA Finals in Singapore but she had a tricky 2017 that saw her slip to No. 26 in the rankings.