When Russian Mikhail Youzhny started his season, for the first time in 16 years he wasn’t preparing for the Australian Open.
The 33-year-old veteran could have played qualifying in Melbourne Park, but instead the former world No.8 was battling away on the less lucrative ATP Challenger Tour in a bid to improve his dropping ranking.
“Last year was very bad for me and my ranking dropped a lot and I finished the season out of the Top 100. I decided to play some Challengers in Bangkok and Manila and I think in my situation it was a good idea,” Youzhny told the ATP World Tour this week.
Starting the year ranked No.127, Youzhny won his first Challenger title in over 15 years in Bangkok. It was the start of a 15-match winning streak, which netted a further two Challenger titles and propelled him back into the world’s top 80.
The two-time Davis Cup champion and two-time Grand Slam semifinalist admitted he wasn’t too proud to drop back to the tour’s secondary level.
“If you are ready to fight, it’s no problem,” he said. “If you want to continue to play, you need to make a step back.”
Former world No.5 Daniela Hantuchova did the same thing this week.
The Slovakian has slipped to No.180 in the WTA Tour rankings, but is determined to continue her career.
The 32-year-old entered an ITF event in France – her first tournament at this level since August 2000 – but was eliminated in the first round by promising French talent Oceane Dodin.
Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone is in a similar situation. The Italian won her first WTA Tour title in more than two years in Brazil in February, yet her ranking still sits at No.105.
The 35-year-old former world No.4 was in action in an ITF event in the American city of Osprey this week, losing in the second round to Greece’s Maria Sakkari this morning.
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