NEW YORK, Aug 24: Two months after barely being able to walk while ill with COVID-19, Grigor Dimitrov played a professional tennis match at the Western & Southern Open and � while the result was not what was most important � he won.
�I said to myself, �I�ll give it a try.� Now I�m here playing a match today,� said Dimitrov, a 29-year-old from Bulgaria who was a US Open semifinalist last year and is ranked No. 19.
�Honestly, I�m just purely thankful that I�m even able to just be here, to participate. Forget about the match � I�m not even talking about tennis right now.�
He said he arrived in New York, the site for both the Western & Southern Open and the US Open, just 1 day before taking the court for what turned out to be a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Ugo Humbert.
The women�s draw saw some big names exit on Day 2 at the hard-court tournament: No. 1 seed Karolina Pliskova, No. 2 Sofia Kenin and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
Pliskova, the 2016 US Open runner-up who will be the top seed when the Grand Slam tournament begins from August 31, lost 7-5, 6-4 to Veronika Kudermetova; Kenin, who won the Australian Open this year, was upset by Alize Cornet 6-1, 7-6 (7); Stephens was eliminated by Caroline Garcia 6-3, 7-6 (4).
Dimitrov tested positive for the coronavirus in June while participating in a series of exhibitions in Croatia and Serbia organised by Novak Djokovic, who also got COVID-19. Djokovic pulled out of the doubles event at the Western & Southern Open on Sunday, citing neck pain, but is still slated to compete in singles on Monday.
�The first week was just tragic. I started by just walking. I couldn�t really do any exercise. I could not lift weights. I couldn�t play tennis,� Dimitrov said, adding that he lost a lot of weight while sick.
�It was a really dark moment,� he said. �I�m not going to lie.�
Eventually, Dimitrov said, he would practice for 20 minutes at a time, then built that up in increments. Still, he was doubtful about getting back on tour at the Western & Southern Open, the first ATP tournament since tennis went on hiatus in March because of the pandemic.
Dimitrov said he hopes his experience with the coronavirus can serve as a bit of a cautionary tale for those who might not take the illness seriously. � AP