Challenger Chronicles: Weintraub On The Comeback Trail
After a long period of not writing, I recently posted on my Facebook page about the ups and downs of life on tour and about all the places I never thought I’d ever get to. When I am on the road, I have plenty of time to think and reflect on my career to date, my attempt to return from injuries and about life in general.
Last week, I was in Uzbekistan playing both singles and doubles at an ATP Challenger Tour tournament in Samarkand. I know many people are curious about life on tour and a behind the scenes look. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts, experiences and funny stories.
I will begin with my injury. In a 2014 Davis Cup match against Slovenia, on clay, just towards the end of the fifth set, I felt my leg hurting badly in my groin area and heard a “click.” I knew right away that something was not right, but I had no idea just how bad! I played on for two more points and won the match. It was a good thing my opponent didn’t see what had happened or he would surely have taken advantage and won.
From that moment, I have been fraught with crises and bad luck but, as they say, “Everything comes together”—and it really does.
I was newly married at the time of my injury and suddenly I was home with no idea what is happening to me. I had my first operation in Israel and went through a long recovery period which included a lot of physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractors and other treatments. After about six months, I still didn’t feel totally fine.
I next flew to Belgium to see a very famous doctor and professor. I wasn’t able to escape having a second operation. It was so frustrating undergoing all of the same post-op treatments again and sitting at home all day, not knowing what will be with me and if I will ever return to playing tennis. My wife and my whole family had to suffer through my periods of frustration.
I endured 19 shots in the groin, two surgeries and a divorce until I finally returned to playing tennis exactly 12 months later. I came back with the realisation that I am 28 years old, my ranking had fallen and that I have to start over from scratch.
My first tournament back was the Raanana Challenger in Israel. Just my luck! I had to face my friend and countryman Dudi Sela in the first round. Even though it is not the way I would want to win a match, I guess luck smiled on me—Dudi got sick and had to retire.
My leg still didn’t feel right and I began thinking that I might need another surgery. I decided to wait a bit more before making a decision. I rested for about two weeks after the tournament in Raanana and suddenly I began to feel better.
I almost don’t believe what amazing things have happened to me in the past 13 months since returning to the tour. I would have never believed that I could reach No. 190 in the Emirates ATP Rankings so quickly. My coach, Shlomo Zoreff, was with me every step of the way, and through all the hard times, and he made sure that the return to tennis was quick and seamless. With Shlomo’s help, I have changed my training and my game a bit in order to protect my leg—and it almost never hurts.
My family, my close friend, Tal, and my other friends were with me every step of the way. They believed in me and made me believe in myself. The support of the Israel Tennis Association in general, and with respect to the treatments I received helped, me get back on my feet. Finally, the right mental attitude was a big factor in my return.
I won five Futures tournaments In Israel, but the big turning point was reaching the final of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Nanchang, China—after three years of not reaching a final. The Israel Tennis Association helped me with coaching support (providing me with the coach who had been with me every step of the way). With their support, I reached the Challenger final in China, which was my fourth. I have still never won a tournament in my career. It remains a big goal of mine.
And now, I just keep going! Life on the ATP Challenger Tour is filled with challenges and funny stories. For example, the trip from Taipei City to Karshi, Uzbekistan, via Hong Kong and Moscow was torture! I had to decide between spending a few hours at a hotel in Hong Kong for $400—or sleeping on a park bench—before my next flight! I landed in Tashkent at 2:45 am on a Sunday, had to wait hours to get a visa, pick up luggage and get on the road—and drive seven hours in a scary cab to Uzbekistan! Then, I went right to the practice court on Sunday, in preparation for my first match on Monday!
And there are many funny moments. At our most recent tournament in Samarkand, it rained on Wednesday. My friend from Israel, Bar Tzuf Botzer and I were both in the main draw. In fact, we were lucky to make it here alive! Once there, it was raining all day for two days and we had no gym to work out and practice—so we both were running from place to place for practice—praying we’d get there on time.
I reached the quarter-finals of the $50,000 event in Samarkand and I am looking forward to the spring and summer tournaments. I hope and pray that I will qualify for the French Open at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.
I will cover a lot of miles, sleep in a lot of hotel rooms, eat in a lot of restaurants, and get to see a lot of amazing cities. And when I have a few minutes of down time, I look forward to talking to friends and family on WhatsApp, catching up with a few of my favourite TV series on the computer, and taking videos of funny things from the tour.
It’s amazing that I’m rising up the rankings, but I try not to look at it too much and worry about where I will be in a day, a week, a month or a year. I am just happy that I am I'm doing the work that I love most and will keep doing so with love---as long as my body holds out!