As Karen Khachanov assessed the timing of a debilitating injury that left him struggling to walk after Roland Garros, the resurgent star weighed how best to approach the problem.
The 27-year-old was arguably in the best form of his career, having reached three consecutive grand slam semi-finals, and felt close to claiming “the cherry on the pie” in a major tournament. But a fracture in the sacrum bone in his back, along with significant pain in his pelvis, derailed him shortly after he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the last four in Paris in June. “The tendons, all the attachments, the bone itself, it was also kind of a stress fracture. Both things were connected,” Khachanov said.
“It all started from Australia. I had been playing well. I kept pushing. But then it got to the moment where I literally could not walk after the French Open match with Novak.
“It was time. I could push to a certain moment, but it was a clear sign when I had pain to walk. That is when I had to stop.”
Khachanov, who will play his second tournament on the comeback trail in the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships, was mindful the enforced break could be beneficial.
The ATP Pepperstone Rankings No.15, who returned to the top 10 after his semi-final run at Roland Garros, was absent from the tour until the US Open.
Rather than lamenting his misfortune, he seized the chance to spend more time with his family, with his second son born in July.
“It was kind of a setback, in a way, because I was in really good form and getting closer and closer. And I proved it with my results. Most of all, I proved it to myself,” he said.
“I was really feeling that I was getting closer to the cherry on the pie. But these things, sometimes you cannot control them, so you have to just accept it and make the best out of it. What could I do? Okay, ‘I (will) have an unexpected vacation with my family’ .
“I have been a family man since a young age and I am just really happy that I have already had two kids, you know, two sons. I just kind of loved this moment.”
A winner of the Paris Masters in 2018, Khachanov was not at his best when he returned to the tour at the US Open in New York when beaten in the first round by Michael Mmoh.
But he has since spent another three weeks training and is confident in his ability to regain his best form, saying the enforced break had only heightened his motivation to succeed.
As the top seed in the Zhuhai Championships, he will play the winner of a clash on Thursday between Diego Schwartzman and Alex Bolt at the Hengqin International Tennis Center.
“I'm really pumped. I'm really burning inside to compete again,” Khachanov said.
“At the same time, I need to keep my body in shape and know that I don't have any pains with any movement, so that I can be fully practising at 100 percent.
“Lately, that's what has been happening. It's a good sign that I don't have any setbacks from that moment.
“I need to take a little time to get the form which I had before. I don't know how much time it will take … but at the same time, I know that if I did it before, why not do it again?”
Khachanov, who won his first ATP Tour title in China in Chengdu in 2016, feels comfortable playing in the Asian region and is excited to make his debut in the Zhuhai Championships.
“It's really great to be back here. I missed this tour. I like to play in Asia … and every year, it's special to come back to China,” he said.
“Really, I am burning inside to compete again. I just hope my body feels well and then I hope I can start to bring the form back which I had before the injury.”