The week after a career milestone, injury suddenly struck Zizou Bergs.
The 24-year-old reached his maiden tour-level quarter-final at the ATP 250 event in Gstaad in July and the next week Bergs was playing a doubles match at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Zug, Switzerland when he tore a ligament in his left wrist.
“I did a first serve and then on the third ball, I hit a backhand and it got torn. That’s something that scares you. A normal backhand and stuff like that can happen,” Bergs told ATPTour.com at the Calgary National Bank Challenger. “From that moment, it was my last backhand and the day after in singles I was doing only slice.”
Bergs then went home to Belgium to visit a specialist who straightaway knew the problem. “The ligament was broken, so the tendon clicks out and that was the issue,” Bergs said.
Surgery would have meant Bergs would be out for at least six months, so the World No. 180 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings took an alternate route. He stepped away from competition for a month to focus on rehab. Bergs returned for US Open qualifying and until last month at the ATP 250 event in Antwerp, he was hitting only slice backhands.
“[Corentin] Moutet inspired me to do it because I knew he had the same issue and he was doing it. Or else I had to be out for three, four months and I know how hard it is to come back to competition after being out,” Bergs said.
“I was a little worried I’d lose a lot of momentum from that and I also thought it would be a fun challenge to go out there playing slice and competing against the best players in the world. In the end I can say I actually enjoyed it. Having these months of only slicing, I’m well convinced it’s going to help me.”
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Just two months before suffering the wrist injury, Bergs was lifting his fifth ATP Challenger Tour trophy in Tallahassee, Florida. Now back at 100 per cent health, Bergs is hoping to regain his best form in the final four weeks of the season.
“I want to get the full reward from the last months, having this game with the slice, feeling like I’ve improved a lot on the forehand, serve and volleys,” Bergs said. “I’d like to see everything come to place, which isn’t going to happen on the first match but I really hope that I’m fighting the hell out of myself because I’m really pumped to get it going again at full capacity.
“Then [I hope] just to develop everything together, being an aggressive player and having this second backhand that I didn’t have before. Then hopefully the results will follow because I’m really dedicated to getting in the Top 100. I really believe I have the level to be there and stay there but I want to get there.”
Even in the difficulty of dealing with injury, Bergs found the positive side, citing drastic improvement on his backhand slice.
“The difference between the beginning and the end is remarkable!” he said, while cracking a laugh.