Tennis warrior Lleyton Hewitt admits even he is surprised by his rapid recovery from hip and minor knee surgery.
Hewitt makes his latest comeback this week in Houston, where he is the defending champion at the US Clay Court Championships.
Not only is he returning just 10 weeks after a second hip operation, but it has now emerged Hewitt also used his lay-off to undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee.
Like many players on the ATP Tour, including Rafael Nadal, Hewitt has been troubled by knee tendonitis for a couple of years now.
The Australian conceded he did not expect to be back competing so soon.
“Absolutely. I’ve only been hitting tennis balls for the last couple weeks after taking eight weeks off,” Hewitt told the Houston Chronicle after an hour-long practice session with Russian Evgeny Korolev.
“After the (hip) surgery, it was highly unlikely I was going to be back this week.
“But I’ve done all the right things in my rehab to get back as quickly as possible.”
The fourth-seeded Hewitt has a first-round bye before opening his title defence on Thursday against either American Mardy Fish or Irish qualifier Conor Niland.
He will not be completely short of match practice, though – he will partner coach Nathan Healey in the doubles on Wednesday.
“At the moment, I’m ready to play,” Hewitt said.
“I’ll be a little rusty at the start, but I’m going to play as hard as I can. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
“At the same time, I’m still looking at the big picture. The French Open and Wimbledon are the big ones obviously.”
Twice a quarter-finalist in Paris, Hewitt has fallen to four-time champion Rafael Nadal on three of his past four visits to the French capital, twice in the fourth round and the other in the third round.
He refuses to believe he can not mount a sustained challenge at this year’s event, starting in late May, given an ounce of luck.
“It’s about the draw,” Hewitt said. “If I keep running into Nadal, he’s one of the toughest ever to play on this surface.
“But, if you get a draw that opens up a bit for you, you never know what can happen. I’ve played my best clay-court tennis at the French Open.”
Hewitt said part of the reason he returned to Houston was to give himself the best possible preparation for the French.
“Coming straight (to Houston last year) from Miami and then to not drop a set here all week, that gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year,” he said.