Taylor lost in 5 sets
Taylor Dent on court again after 3 back surgeries
By TANALEE SMITH – 2 hours ago
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — After three back operations, Taylor Dent wondered if he'd ever play tennis again.
The operations to fix chronic pain caused by a fractured vertebrae spanned 2 1/2 years. Early on, doctors gave him a 20 percent chance of returning to the court.
But lying in bed for months, thinking of what he wanted to do with his life, only one idea prevailed.
"I was wracking my brain thinking of stuff I wanted to do, and honestly nothing gave me the fire in my belly like competing and playing professional tennis," Dent said. "So I said if I get the chance I'm going to take it, and I'm going to try to be better than I was."
He may be on his way to doing just that.
On Monday, Dent played in his first Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 Australian Open and managed five strong sets before losing to fellow American Amer Delic 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Dent, who has four ATP titles and reached a career-high No. 21, was pleased by "the fact that I was able to hold with him; I only got broken three times in five sets.
"I would have taken that four years ago," he said. "I think that's a great thing for me."
Dent is one of the few true serve-volleyers on the tour and has one of the fastest serves in the game.
Andy Roddick said he was glad to see Dent playing again.
"From the sounds of it, for a while, you didn't think he was going to come back with how severe his injuries were," Roddick said. "So it's a testament to him wanting to get back."
Dent, 27, is coached by his father, Australian former ATP player Phil Dent. His mother, Betty Ann Stuart, was a former top 10 player in the United States, and his wife is WTA Tour player Jennifer Hopkins.
Dent played with back pain for years before it became unbearable in early 2006, and he had his first surgery in May that year. The pain remained, however, and he had a second surgery in March 2007, followed by a successful third operation in September 2007.
His recovery has been long and frustrating. In 2008, he worked his way through tournaments every six to eight weeks to test his progress.
"It felt like I hit a wall there, where every time I was going out there I'd do great for a set, maybe a set and a half, then I'd be dead tired, just so, so beat," he said. "It took me a long time to get over that hump. Now I feel like I can last four sets, that's what I was training for."
He spent some of his recovery time as a commentator on The Tennis Channel and said being so close to the action also spurred him to return, admitting he was "bitter and jealous" watching the other men play. He made his competitive comeback in November.