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Bonzi: From 'Penguin Trying To Throw' To US Open Third Round

Frenchman reflects on comeback from wrist injury
September 01, 2023
Benjamin Bonzi is into the third round of the US Open for the first time.
Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Benjamin Bonzi is into the third round of the US Open for the first time. By Andrew Eichenholz

Everything was going well for Benjamin Bonzi until it wasn’t.

The Frenchman reached a career-high No. 42 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings this February after making his first ATP Tour final in Pune. He then advanced to another championship clash in Marseille, but everything changed two months later.

At the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Bonzi was playing Stefanos Tsitsipas when disaster struck. “I felt a big flash in the wrist,” while hitting a backhand, he told ATPTour.com

Right away, Bonzi knew he would be out for an extended period of time. The native of Nimes, France had suffered a left wrist injury and retired in the first set of the match. He missed the rest of the clay-court season.

“I did six weeks of immobilisation on the wrist. You're pretty excited to take things off and to go back on the court. But you don't really know when you're going to be really ready to play your game and to feel confident again,” Bonzi said. “Maybe I wasn't expecting to be ready after this long time.”

Bonzi is currently in the third round of the US Open and will play Swiss lefty Dominic Stricker for a place in the Round of 16. But reaching this point has been far from easy.

“I had two weeks when I could not do training, physically and everything. And then I tried to play again even with the wrist immobilised. I was doing forehands and some serves, trying to just be a tennis player without the left arm,” Bonzi said. “It was a long time because you could not train how you wanted, you could not be 100 per cent fit and you just had to be patient.”

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How could he hit serves with his left arm in a sling?

“It was crazy. I was looking like a penguin trying to throw the ball,” Bonzi said, cracking a laugh. “It was not perfect. It was maybe five or 10 serves per day, but it was not good to see.”

Ahead of Roland Garros, Bonzi was able to remove the sling and start doing what he loves again.

“Free. I felt free. It was a long time without moving my hand, my arm, my elbow and everything,” Bonzi said. “Unfortunately, I was not ready in time to play the tournament. When you have to put the jacket with a special sling because your elbow is blocked, when you take it off it's a great feeling.”

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Bonzi returned during the grass-court season, losing the first six matches of his comeback and failing to win a set in any of those encounters. It was a stark contrast to the form he had shown at the beginning of the year.

“To come back, you have to build everything again, everything — the confidence, the way you play on court, and to get the rhythm again on the tennis court. And it's pretty difficult actually,” Bonzi said. “You never know when physically you will be 100 per cent fit or if you're going to feel something again in the wrist or if you just change your feeling [hitting the ball]. Maybe two or three per cent could be a big difference when you feel the ball.”

Now Bonzi is back on track. Not long after struggling to play the sport, the Frenchman has an opportunity to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time.

“After injuries you never know. It's going to be maybe one good day, one bad day. You don't know. I started to build something again. I felt that it was better. But you don't know,” Bonzi said. “There are only good players here. It's now two victories and the confidence is way higher than four days ago.”

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