It’s been a frustrating start to 2017 but hopefully the illness and injury problems are finally behind me just in time for some of the biggest tournaments of the year.
I’m still coughing my way around Roland Garros as I get over the effects of my latest bout of sickness – the more I talk, the more I want to cough – but I felt fine during my match on Tuesday and happy to get through to the second round.
I haven’t played as many matches, or had as many wins, as I would like in the build-up to the French Open but Grand Slams are long events and hopefully I can play my way into form.
The Slams are what’s driving me more than the number one ranking. If you win these events, you give yourself a chance of staying at the top of the rankings. If you don’t, you don’t deserve to be up there.
Last year I performed well in the Slams with finals in Australia and France, a win at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals at the US Open.
This year the start hasn’t been so good, but I can turn things around over the next few weeks both here in Paris and at Wimbledon.
‘I couldn’t do any physical work’
I’ve been pretty lucky over the past couple of years but shingles, an elbow injury and illness have certainly set me back this year.
When I had the shingles I could still do a bit of training, I just couldn’t do anything that was of high intensity at all.
I was able to hit balls, so stay in a bit of rhythm in terms of my timing, but I couldn’t do any physical work like interval training – just staying active and avoiding anything too strenuous to make sure my heart rate didn’t get up too high.
With the elbow, I could do everything except serve. I could at least train and stay in decent shape, I just couldn’t play tournaments or matches or points.
And obviously, that’s what we do. As much as you practise and work on stuff, playing points is the most important thing and I couldn’t do that.
So it was really positive that I came through four sets on Tuesday and the elbow felt fine. That was probably the most I’d served since the injury, and in fairly slow, heavy conditions, and it feels pretty good.
I feel totally over the illness I had a week ago and although the cough’s a bit irritating, I’m certainly not sick any more.
‘It’s not easy to stay at the top’
There were points towards the end of last year when I wasn’t number one, but I felt like I was the best player in the world. This year I’ve been number one and I certainly haven’t been the best player out there.
It was a great experience to get there for the first time here in Paris last November, and obviously I’ve enjoyed keeping hold of it for the past six or seven months.
It’s not easy to stay at the top and the past three or four months have not really been good enough to merit that ranking, but it’s calculated over the past 12 months, and over that time I’ve been the best.
So far this year I obviously haven’t, and I need to try to turn that around.
‘There’s always been a handshake at the end’
The next step will be my second-round match against Martin Klizan – a big hitter with a pretty unorthodox style. He played five sets on Tuesday so hopefully I can make it tough for him again.
The end of his first match was also pretty unorthodox as there was no handshake with Laurent Lokoli. I saw the video, although I didn’t see what happened in the match, but the two of them obviously weren’t happy with each other.
I’m pretty sure that in every match I’ve played professionally, there’s always been a handshake at the end of it.
Hopefully there will be another one in a couple of days, and I’m the one smiling.