Some players would have had a nightmare in Jan-Lennard Struff’s shoes Wednesday. The German walked onto Court Butch Buchholz for his first-round match against Fabio Fognini. One year ago at the same venue, he was dealt one of the most difficult blows of his career.
The German fractured his foot during his first-round match against Pedro Martinez. In the middle of the second set, realising he was unable to properly move, Struff retired. Did returning to the site of the injury bother him?
“No, it’s nice to play here for sure. It’s a beautiful city, beautiful tournament,” Struff told ATPTour.com. “Not really weird, no. I didn’t think about it the whole match. Before I thought, ‘Okay it’s the same court’, but during the match I didn’t focus on that.”
Struff missed two-and-a-half months after his injury last year, and he fell as low as No. 168 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He was No. 167 as recently as January.
“It’s not easy. You’re used to playing big events, Masters [1000 events] and stuff. Starting in the qualies in Grand Slams again is something you need to adjust to, definitely,” Struff said. “The quality of the tennis and the level of the players I think increased the past couple of years so much and if you think you’ll be up there pretty fast again, it’s the wrong thought.
“It takes a while and there are a lot of good players. They try to beat you, they know your ranking was pretty high, it was in the Top 50, so they wanted to beat you. I remember when I played [top] guys, I wanted to beat them. It’s not easy and I’m very happy with the past couple of weeks, for sure.”
After struggling to an 8-13 tour-level record in 2022, Struff is off to a quick start to 2023. He is 22-7 at all levels and with his three-set victory against Fognini returned to the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
“It’s nice to win. It was a tough match. Fabio was 3-1 up in the head to head, so it was very important for me to win this one today,” Struff said. “The season is going well so far, I’m playing good tennis and I want to continue.”
A former World No. 29 who has earned 10 wins against Top 10 opponents, Struff was once one of the most dangerous players on the ATP Tour. At his best, the 6’4” 32-year-old is capable of putting pressure on almost any player thanks to his powerful game.
Although his good start to the year has been satisfying, Struff is hungry for more. He will play 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.
“I want to go higher again for sure, I don’t want to stop here,” Struff said. “That would be strange to stop now. But I just want to play good tennis, enjoy and I want to climb again, that’s for sure. I don’t know how high I can go, but I’ll try to give my best, work hard and we’ll see.”