The tennis world shared its love for Juan Martin del Potro Tuesday evening after the Argentine made an emotional return in Buenos Aires. Few can empathise as much with what Del Potro has gone through like Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, who is competing this week at the Dallas Open.
The German reached a career-high No. 71 in the ATP Rankings in 2012 and made his maiden ATP Tour final in 2019 as the World No. 455. But the lefty has spent large chunks of his career dealing with injuries.
“I’ve been maybe in the same position as he was. Mentally it’s just really challenging if you’re injured for a very long time. You try to come back and you work your a** off and every time, you have to accept the fact that you can’t really play or compete at your best level anymore,” Stebe said. “It’s really frustrating at some point. But for him, he has achieved some incredible things. He made the best of his career. I always had the feeling I haven’t reached my full potential.”
Three years ago, the German told ATP Tour.com it was as if someone had a voodoo doll of him and had been sticking needles into various body parts randomly. Before the pandemic, Stebe had already dealt with injuries to his hip, lower back, pubic bone, pelvic area and right wrist. Since then, it has not been much better.
“It just felt like something was completely out of balance with my body. [Since the pandemic started] I had several abdominal tears or strains. I had a couple quad muscle fibre tears and calf muscle fibre tears. It was basically everywhere,” Stebe said. “I dislocated my right shoulder. It was literally everywhere and that kept me thinking there must be something wrong.”[FOLLOW ACTION]
Stebe admitted that at times he has struggled finding motivation. But the World No. 231 qualified this week in Dallas and won his opening match in the main draw to earn a second-round clash against second seed Reilly Opelka. Despite all the struggles, he is still pushing forward.
“I don’t want to stop until I feel I’ve given 110 or 115 per cent. There is such a short period of time you have your career and I don’t want to stop and regret not trying everything,” Stebe said. “I want to still do my best. I know some guys are playing their best in their mid-30s, so it’s nice to see that people can do it still. It gives me belief I can do it, too.”
For now, Stebe’s biggest goal is to stay healthy and charge back into the Top 100. For the first time, he did offseason training outside of Germany (in Florida at the IMG Academy). The 31-year-old plans to craft a “smart” schedule and still has belief his best is still to come.
“I know I can play some good tennis. That’s always kept me motivated somehow. I was always trying to figure out how not to be injured,” Stebe said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can. Hopefully it works out in the end and I can play a couple more years and still enjoy playing tennis and enjoy life on Tour.”