He is happy to be back on the circuit, getting a feel of tennis. The last time Karan Rastogi played the professional circuit, he was forced to give a walkover in the semifinals of a Futures tournament in Kuwait in May last year.
“I was looking forward to playing Miles Armstrong of Australia. I had beaten him easily in China earlier. The night before the match, I had to limp on way to dinner. The next morning I couldn’t even walk,” recalls Karan, who underwent back surgery in Australia in July last year and has been slowly returning to normal life.
Training in earnest
The 22-year-old Karan has been training at the DLTA Complex, in right earnest, for the last few days and plans to re-start his professional tennis career with a stint of doubles with Rohan Gajjar next week in the second ITF men’s Futures tournament.
“It feels too good to be here in Delhi. Depending on how I fare, I may opt to play the singles qualifying event on the third week,” said Karan, after a training session on Wednesday.
Karan’s mind runs back to the days when he skipped two back-to-back Challengers in Delhi, owing to back pain. He went to Kuwait and things had looked fine till the problem returned to cramp him.
“I could have taken some injections and continued playing, but that would have only been a temporary solution. I went to the doctors who had done the surgery on Mahesh Bhupathi. My mom was with me in Australia for four months. I couldn’t sit for 20 minutes. It was a tough time,” says Karan, even as he quickly acknowledges the strong financial support of the BCCI and DHFL which helped him overcome the crisis.
“Am very grateful to them. We couldn’t have afforded such a huge medical bill,” says Karan, who actually started his return to the court by hitting at the Melbourne Park under the supervision of the doctors, in May this year. He was skipping and working out in the gym till then.
“The doctors have warned me that the other parts will have a few niggles initially. I have learnt to listen to the body. It is great to be hitting the tennis ball again. I know that it will take a long time to get back my original game. I am patient,” says Karan, who was ranked as high as 327 in June 2006.
Karan had won the Satellite circuit, had won a few Futures titles and most prominently had won a round in the ATP Tour event, the Chennai Open and given a good account of himself against Rafael Nadal in 2007. It was the same year in which he played the Davis Cup tie against Kazakhstan.
As a junior, Karan had been ranked as high No. 4 in the world and had made the semifinals of the Australian Open junior event.
He had a great doubles combination going with Somdev Devvarman, and the duo had won the Asian junior title apart from a few grade ‘I’ events.
“Somdev has been brilliant this year. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow. What he did at the Chennai Open was fabulous for him, the tournament and Indian tennis,” gushes Karan as he praises his friend, who, he had always felt, had something special in him.
“Somdev always had the physical fitness and was mentally tough. Going to college in the U.S. was the best move for him,” says Karan.
The twists of life are tough to fathom. Karan just wants to enjoy tennis. “I think I didn’t enjoy it that much earlier when I was playing so well. I have a new perspective of everything,” he signs off.