Stefanos Tsitsipas was close to retiring from tennis after injury left him ‘helpless’

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Stefanos Tsitsipas has admitted he almost quit tennis at the end of last season after struggling with an elbow injury. The world No 5 is set to open his Indian Wells campaign on Saturday night against American former world No 8 Jack Sock. He has already won 14 matches this year, including reaching the Australian Open semi-final, after an astounding comeback from surgery.

Tsitsipas withdrew from the ATP Finals to cut his season slightly short last year after suffering with an elbow injury.

The 23-year-old had enjoyed a career-best season, reaching a Grand Slam final at the French Open, winning his first Masters title in Monte Carlo and reaching a career-high world No 3.

He underwent elbow surgery in the off-season and made a successful comeback, reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open where he lost to highest seed Daniil Medvedev, and making the Rotterdam final where he lost to first-time title winner Felix Auger-Aliassime.

The world No 5 comes into Indian Wells with a 14-5 win-loss record and a new coach in Thomas Enqvist in his camp, with the former world No 4 joining his team in Rotterdam.

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Tsitsipas appears to have brushed off the elbow injury easily since surgery but has now admitted he was close to retiring after thinking nothing would be able to fix the problem at the end of last year.

“I went through a period of a lot of stress, a period where I didn’t enjoy playing tennis anymore because the pain was so big and so intense,” the seven-time title winner admitted ahead of his first match at the BNP Paribas Open.

“I wasn’t able to enjoy the game that I love the most. I remember being at the ATP Finals a few days before the surgery and I was thinking of quitting.”

The Greek star explained what drove him close to retirement, opening up on the dark place he was in during the end of last season.

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“I didn’t think back then that anyone would be able to help me heal and get back to where I wanted. It was a very difficult moment that I had to go through. I was in a very bad place,” he added.

“I wasn’t able to stay motivated because I didn’t believe in myself. I wasn’t able to be where I wanted to be. My body was stopping me from going there.

“It was very sad to feel helpless, in a way. I felt weak and I felt unable to reach new heights. I want to feel consistent, and I want to feel good about myself this year.”

The fifth seed in Indian Wells this week was told he would be back in time for the clay-court season, which begins in April with Monte Carlo where Tsitsipas is defending champion.

But he defied expectations with his run to the Aussie Open semis in January, and admitted that he was as surprised as anyone to see himself bounce back so quickly.

He said: “It was not normal, not normal at all. It was kind of a miracle, in a way.

“The fact that I was able to go deep in the Australian Open was the best thing that has happened in my career so far in regards of a comeback, after such a difficult injury that I suffered with for many years.”

Now eyeing the title at the BNP Paribas Open – where his previous career-best showing coming last year in the quarter-final – the French Open finalist is hoping a trophy in the desert could be the thing pushing him on to win the biggest titles in the sport.

“It could give me a massive amount of confidence to win Grand Slam titles if I pull that off,” he said.

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