Dent wins first US Open match since 2005

Sep 2, 2009 - 3:24 AM By HOWARD FENDRICH AP Tennis Writer

NEW YORK(AP) -- This all seemed so impossible when Taylor Dent was lying in bed 23 hours a day, recuperating from his second back operation.

And later, when he would be out of breath after a short stroll.

And, of course, when doctors told him to forget about playing professional tennis again.

On Tuesday, Taylor Dent not only played again at the U.S. Open - he won.

Returning to the Flushing Meadows as a competitor for the first time in four years, for the first time since having his back repaired, the 28-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif., beat Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 7-5 to reach the second round.

"I wanted to be here competing and playing well and playing matches. So to be back here accomplishing that is pretty remarkable," said Dent, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 21 in 2005. "I still have a long way to go. I still feel like my game is still pretty rough around the edges. But it's extremely exciting."

The serving motion he had to adjust because of his back problems managed to produce 18 aces against Lopez. Dent still plays the hard-charging, serve-and-volley style he always has, and he won 39 of 58 points when he went to the net.

"I was told by the doctors that this was not realistic," Dent said. "After I kind of succumbed to the fact I had to have the surgeries to have a normal life, I came to grips with the fact that I wasn't going to be able to play professional tennis anymore."

So it was that a pro tennis player - and the son of a pro tennis player, 1974 Australian Open runner-up Phil Dent - began to think about other careers.

He looked into applying for a real estate license, but the economy was faltering, so that didn't seem to be a good move.

"Religion fascinates me. Politics fascinate me. I was poking around," Dent recalled. "I was going through such a bout of almost depression at that stage that doing work was really tough on me, too."

Eventually, though, the pain began to subside. His mobility began to return.

Once again, Taylor Dent was on a tennis court, working his way back to the tour. And on Tuesday, Dent was back at the U.S. Open, actually winning.

So if Dent gets a day off before having to play in the second round, will he have time to recover? Will he be fine to play again that quickly?

"We'll find out," he said. "I believe I'll be ready to go. I'll be jumping out of my skin."

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