Wayne Odesnik launches tennis comeback
Plantation: Disgraced US tennis player Wayne Odesnik, playing his first match since serving a one-year doping ban, won his first-round encounter at the low-level Plantation Open.
The 25-year-old South African-born left-hander - who was banned after pleading guilty to importing human growth hormone (HGH) into Australia - defeated Romanian Teodor-Dacian Craciun 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the 10,000-dollar clay-court event.
Odesnik`s punishment included a loss of world rankings points, hence the former top-100 player`s return on the Futures circuit, a third-tier series that will allow him to gain points as he tries to work his way back to the ATP Tour.
"I really wanted to prove to everybody and myself I can do it again from scratch," Odesnik said. "And I will."
Odesnik reached a career-best 77th in the rankings in April 2010. But that was four months after his January arrest in Brisbane with eight vials of HGH.
Odesnik pleaded guilty in March to importing the performance-enhancing substance into Australia, and in May received a two-year ban despite denying he had ever taken the banned substance and never returning a positive dope test.
His ban was backdated to December 29, 2009, meaning he lost all prize money and results from his run to the US Clay Court Championships semi-finals in April.
But two weeks ago, the International Tennis Federation cut Odesnik`s ban in half, essentially to time served, because he had fully cooperated with the group`s anti-doping program.
Odesnik said the conditions at the Plantation Open, rudimentary by ATP standards, didn`t bother him.
"I`ve been through it before. It doesn`t affect me at all," he said. "There`s a guy on the other side of the net, and I`m trying to win. That`s all I`m thinking about."
Odesnik said he hopes to play two more Futures events before moving up a rung to the Challenger circuit.
"When you almost lose something overnight - that`s what I mean about being humbled by the experience," he said. "This time around, I think I`ll appreciate tennis more and really enjoy it. I realize I`m getting to do what I love for a living.”
"For the rest of my career, I`ll always cherish the opportunity I have," he said.