© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

In Delray Beach, 37-year-old Paolo Lorenzi this week is pursuing his second ATP Tour title.

Lorenzi's Love: Why Paolo Battles On At 37

Italian plays Johnson in the Delray Beach second round

In the first weekend of February in 2018, Paolo Lorenzi was in Japan for Italy's Davis Cup tie against Japan, one he did not play in. Then 36 years old and No. 46 in the ATP Rankings, he hurt his left foot. The next week in Quito, Lorenzi broke the fascia in that foot, his first serious injury since turning professional in 2003.

“I think it was frustrating because it was the first time. I didn’t know what to expect,” said Lorenzi, who missed nearly two months. “I was thinking that when I came back on court, everything would be the same. I needed time and tennis players don’t want to wait. We want everything to be fast and easy, so it was something different. But I think it helped me grow up. You’re never too old to grow up.”

After returning at an ATP Challenger Tour event at San Luis Potosi at the end of March, things didn’t go as planned. Lorenzi lost four consecutive matches, winning just one set during that stretch. While he claimed two Challenger titles later in the year, in Sopot and Cordenons, Lorenzi won just four tour-level matches in 2018 after his return.

“I think that last year for me was tough because I was unlucky. In my tennis life I’d never had a big injury. But I had one for the first time,” Lorenzi said. “I know that it’s not easy, because I’m not young anymore, but of course I’m trying my best and I’m happy. I’m happy that I’m playing some tournaments and I’m happy to stay on the circuit. Sometimes you don’t think how lucky you are until you’re out.”

Lorenzi has found his best tennis later in his career. He first broke into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings just before his 28th birthday, and he hit his career-high of No. 33 when he was 35, less than two years ago.

“To be there at the beginning of his career always at Challengers and striving to get to the Top 100, I think many players would have quit playing. He was always just working hard,” said fellow Italian Andreas Seppi. “Seeing him now at 37 at a good level, is of course inspiring. Physically it’s not easy, but you can see he’s still doing a good job.”

Lorenzi fell as low as No. 116 in the ATP Rankings after suffering his foot injury, and he currently sits at No. 105. Considering there are only three players older than him in the Top 200, one would expect it to be hard to battle back. But that’s not the case for Lorenzi.

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“I love this sport. I love to wake up in the morning and go to practice. I like to play tournaments and I like the adrenaline of the match, so I think that’s the key,” Lorenzi said. “If you like what you do, that’s the most important thing. I’m lucky because my passion became my work, so I’m trying to enjoy it as long as I can.

“I think that I’ve always loved it. This is the key of my tennis life. I always say it doesn’t matter if I’m here to play an ATP Tour event or I’m playing a Challenger, I always love what I’m doing. I think this is the most important thing and to like what you do, you have to do it, if you can.”

Perhaps Lorenzi’s biggest win came at Kitzbuhel in 2016, when he earned his maiden ATP Tour trophy. The raw emotions of that victorious moment stays with Lorenzi to this day, the crown jewel of a successful career.

“I think I’m happy. When you start playing tennis you want to be No. 1 in the world, you want to win a Slam, at least if you tell me I would do this, I’d be really happy," Lorenzi said. "I won one ATP Tour title, I was No. 33 in the world, I was No. 1 in Italy for one year. So I think that I really enjoy what I’ve done and I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”

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