Berankis Wins Shymkent Challenger To Cap Surgery Return
Former World No. 50 targeting Top 100 return in 2017
Five months of patience and grueling rehabilitation have been rewarded for Ricardas Berankis. The Lithuanian lifted his eighth ATP Challenger Tour title in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, with an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Yannick Hanfmann on Saturday.
Hip surgery forced the 26 year old to begin his 2017 campaign in May. A first round exit (l. De Loore) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, was a tough re-introduction, but Berankis was delighted by his rapid return to form in Shymkent.
“Of course winning a title so quickly gives me confidence. Every point gives me confidence. For me, that was the longest time I've not played tennis during my career,” revealed Berankis. “The other guys are in the middle of the season, but for me it's been rough and last week I wasn't happy with my game.
“This week, it worked out well and I'm really feeling confident. I have some match wins in my pocket. I was just keeping my concentration and working on the same things I have been doing. They worked out and I stayed focused, point-by-point. Slowly but surely I’m going forward.”
Berankis is a player of grit and guile, which meant he played through the pain towards the end of 2016 at the Tennis Paris Masters. Having returned home in Lithuania for tests, it was revealed that he had broken cartilage and a hip impingement, which results in excessive contact between the ball and socket of the hip joint. With the injury in such a crucial area of the body for tennis, it has been a complete reconstruction of his leg strength and mobility.
“After the surgery, the main thing I was working on was strengthening the hip. Making it strong,” said the former No. 50 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, who is projected to climb back within the Top 200 on Monday. “It's always tough to do it after such a long period of time when the fragile part is very sensitive. You need to get to the point where you're running and not worrying about something getting pulled or torn. We spent a lot of time on fitness and preparation.
“I've gone through similar things, having surgery on my right groin in 2012. It was the same area of the body. But I wasn't away from the courts for as long. I know it takes time for the pain to go away and I'm still feeling the scar tissue, but it's nothing to be worried about. From my last experiences I know how to feel and what's good pain and bad pain. It helps mentally.”
A first round test against Paolo Lorenzi greets Berankis next at Roland Garros, where he seeks his first match win at the clay-court Grand Slam. His transition onto grass will begin at the ATP Challenger Tour events in Nottingham and Ilkley, before using his protected ranking to enter Wimbledon.
“My biggest goal of the year is returning to the Top 100,” said the Shymkent champion. “We'll see how it goes. My whole team and I are looking for ways to improve my tennis as much as possible to get back there.”