Edouard Roger-Vasselin has been in pain for years. Since 2014, the Frenchman has struggled with his right hip, so much so that he had to stop playing singles at the end of 2016. According to the 38-year-old, he spent more time in the physiotherapist’s room than on the tennis court.
But his biggest blow came last April, when Roger-Vasselin played football with his seven-year-old son, Mateo.
“He was faster than me. I am supposed to be an athlete and I couldn’t play football with my son. Even he was like, ‘Dad you’re too slow, go be the goalkeeper! I don’t want you on my team!’” Roger-Vasselin told ATPTour.com. “I remember perfectly that time when I was like, ‘I need to do something.’
“I have time to play with my kids and I want to be able to play football or do sports with my kids. The quality of life was terrible. If I just had a walk with my wife on the beach, after 30 minutes we had to sit and to stop.”
This was not general soreness or a dull pain. Although Roger-Vasselin has never had a knife in his body, he likened the pain to being stabbed.
“The body reacted every time to protect the pain,” Roger-Vasselin said. “Every time I tried to tie my shoes, the body was reacting and at the end I couldn’t really tie my shoes. The pain was there from the morning until the evening.”
Last July, enough had been enough. Roger-Vasselin decided to undergo hip resurfacing — the same surgery Bob Bryan and Andy Murray had — on his right hip. The Frenchman admitted he was scared of going through with it. He consulted Bryan and Murray as he deliberated.
“Bob told me to do it right away. He said it was amazing and I had to do it,” Roger-Vasselin said. “Andy and I had a couple of discussions and he said he felt much better after. At the end it was my choice, but for quality of life I had no other option.
“To see them also come back on Tour and have some success, the decision was easy. But it took time to decide… I’m really glad I did it. I was scared to do it. Of course, it was hard. But now I’m really happy.”
The early days of Roger-Vasselin’s recovery were not easy. The first week, he recalled, was “really, really bad”.
“It was really painful, to be honest. Then it was quite quick to get back on my feet, to have a regular life. After four weeks, I was able to walk without crutches. I was able to enjoy normal life for another month and then after two months I started to go back to rehab and get back the strength of my leg, because I was really weak,” Roger-Vasselin said. “For personal life, it’s amazing. Going back on court to be an athlete, it took time. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Then I could feel from the beginning of December, this was good.”
Now the Frenchman has no pain. And if anything, the time off gave him a mental reset, as he got to spend a lot of time with his family and friends. The ATP Cup, where he is a member of Team France, is Roger-Vasselin’s first event back.
What is exciting for Roger-Vasselin — who will play with Rohan Bopanna this year — is that even when he was in pain, he performed well. Just 14 months ago, the former doubles World No. 6 made the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals with Jurgen Melzer.
“If I could play with one leg and a half, let’s see what happens with two legs now. I’m really looking forward to it,” Roger-Vasselin said. “I know it’s going to be a long process, but if I’m capable of playing without pain and growing my physical options, I deeply have the feeling I can be much better than I was. Let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Before Roger-Vasselin went under the knife six months ago, he made a deal with his son: They were going to play football in a few months.
“I was like, ‘Listen kid, in three months I’m going to be faster than you.’ He was like, ‘No chance daddy, I know you!’” Roger-Vasselin said. “I was really happy, proud of the work I had done. Now I killed him on the football field in November and December! He was so devastated that he’s slower than me now. But of course he was happy for me and it was maybe the best win of the year, that I could be faster than my son.”