Making it to the top of the game of tennis is hard. Even harder is doing it twice. Loss of form and injury are the most common reasons for a rankings free fall, but some other unlikely events have caused great players major setbacks. Recently, American Brian Baker’s comeback story has lit up the tennis world after 5 years out of the game with successive surgeries. Baker came back ranked nowhere and now is a career high 60. Remarkable.
Here’s my other top 10 remarkable comeback stories:
1. Andre Agassi
Andre’s lost interest in tennis by 1997 was playing challenger tournaments and ranked 141. By 1999 he was French Open champion and world number 1 and completing a career Grand Slam. Simple as that.
Comeback High: Career Grand Slam, Ranked 1
2. Thomas Muster
In 1989, Muster was in the top 10. During Indian Wells, a drunk driver out Thomas out of action and no one thought he’d even play again. In 1995, he reached world number 1 and won 12 tournaments that year, including the French Open. Iron by name, iron by nature.
Comeback High: French Open 2005, Ranked 1
3. James Blake
A freak accident while practicing on clay, caused Blake to break his neck no less. Throw in a rare face paralysis condition called Zoster on top and it was game, set and match for his career. However, an astonishing recovery brought Blake 9 more titles and a career high 4 in the world.
Comeback High: Ranked 4
4. Vince Spadea
One the more famous comeback stories. Vince dropped to 237 in the rankings after a historic loss of form resulting in 21 straight losses (an ATP record). A re-dedication to tennis, Agassi-style, was the trick and he even attempted another comeback aged 34 but once was enough.
Comeback High: Ranked 18
5. Mark Philippoussis
The Scud his the skids around 2000 with injuries after being ranked as high as number 8. His first comeback was in 2003 and he made the Wimbledon final only to run into GOAT Federer (who won his first Wimbledon title). More injuries and off court distractions including appearing in the TV show ‘Age of Love’. His second comeback in 2006 was less successful as a result.
Comeback High: Wimbledon Final 2003
6. Goran Ivanisevic
After losing for the 3rd time in a Wimbldeon final, Goran was a broken man. On a wing and a prayer in 2001, he took a wildcard at Wimbledon and did the impossible and won it, much to the delight of casual and diehard tennis fans. A miracle on SW19.
Comeback High: Wimbledon Champion 2001
7. Alex Bogomolov Jr.*
Bogie ran into trouble in 2005 when he got busted for inhaling a banned substance for asthma, divorced his then wife Ashley Harkleroad and dropped to playing Challengers. Destined for journeyman status, he turned things around in 2011 and returned to his roots as a Russian, climbing to world number 33.
Comeback High: Back to number 33
8. Sergi Bruguera
Double French Open champ Sergi, dropped to world number 81 after an ankle injury but climbed back into the top 10 in 1997 after reaching his 3rd French Open final, losing to heir apparent, Guga Kuerten.
Comeback High: French Open Final 1997, ranked 8
9. Taylor Dent
Ranked as high as 21 in 2005, back surgery no less in 2007, took Dent out the game and threatened his career. He managed to comeback the next year. After some good results in 2009, he served the fastest recorded serve at Wimbledon a year later.
Comeback High: Serving fastest ever serve at Wimbledon 2010
10. Jimmy Connors
At aged 39, Jimmy arrived at the 1991 US Open with luminous racket in hand and went on one of the most unlikely runs of all time. A marathon 5 set win over Krickstein was epic and for a guy his age, the stamina was remarkable.
Comeback High: Reached US Open 1991 semi finals