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Bradley Klahn returns to his winning ways in Champaign.

Klahn Back To Winning Ways After 21 Months Away

Former Top 100 player into quarter-finals in Champaign Challenger

In one of the last Challengers of the year, Bradley Klahn is turning heads in his first tournament back after nearly two years away.

The 26-year-old American returned to men’s professional tennis this week at the $50,000 Challenger in Champaign, Illinois. Klahn had been sidelined for 21 months after undergoing back surgery, but fans wouldn’t be able to tell based on his level of play. After receiving a wild card into qualifying, he advanced into the main draw and defeated Tennys Sandgren on Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals.

“There were definitely times that I didn’t think I’d be able to compete again,” admitted Klahn. “It’s definitely exciting and refreshing just to be out here playing a tournament and seeing all the guys again.”

Klahn broke into the Top 100 at the end of 2013 after an outstanding Challenger season that saw him win two titles and finish runner-up in three other events. The American won three more Challenger titles in 2014, but struggled with injuries for much of the year. Klahn competed for just two months in 2015 before making the tough call to undergo back surgery.

He experienced frustrating setbacks in his recovery that made him contemplate whether he would even be able to resume his playing career. Klahn even began to give serious consideration to life away from professional tennis and served as a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s tennis team at Stanford University, his alma mater where he won the 2010 NCAA men’s singles championship.

“There was a lot of fear with my back around re-injuring it again. I already had two surgeries and was conscious about that, plus I had concerns about how it would set me up for life after tennis,” said Klahn. “I didn’t want to be in pain for the rest of my life. Even when I was trying to come back, I tried to put things in perspective and also set myself up for what I might want to do after my playing career.”

But after extensive work with his physical therapist, the pair found a recovery plan that worked for Klahn. He eventually resumed full practices after nearly a year of being unable to do so and now finds himself back to winning ways in Champaign.

Although he aims to get back into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, Klahn is determined to enjoy the process more this time around.

“I feel good on court and more comfortable on court with each match. This is more about getting my feet wet again, just staying mentally engaged and calm with each match,” said Klahn. “I know that it’s not going to be pretty at moments and there are times when I’ll be kicking myself mentally, but understand that it’s part of the process.”

“Knowing how quickly tennis can be taken away from you puts it into perspective. It’s definitely a pleasure to be back,” he added. “I’m making sure that I understand how far I am in my recovery process and how lucky I am to be doing this.” 

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