Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Struggling Rios blames it on injuries

Pelvis surgery sets Chilean back

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Marcelo Rios
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — Marcelo Rios wonders if he will ever be same. He is just 24 years old, and his body refuses to perform the way it used to.

        The temperamental Chilean was ranked No.1 in the world in March 1998. More than two years later, he is 28th in the ATP Champions Race and struggling to find his form.

        In November, Rios underwent surgery on his pelvis to relieve pain in his groin. Doctors in Chile told him he was the first tennis player to have such an operation; it is more common for soccer players.

        Rios did not return to the ATP Tour until late February. He lost his first match in Santiago, Chile, to someone named Bohdan Ulihrach.

        “I felt I needed a break, but I didn't expect to have that kind of break,” said Rios, who advanced to the second round of the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati with a 6-4, 6-4 victory Monday over Marc Rosset. “When I came out of the hospital, I couldn't even walk. The first month I started running, I couldn't even move my feet. You don't know if you're going to be able to come back.

        “I didn't know what to expect (when I returned). I played my first match, and ... it was like I didn't know what I was doing. It's been really hard.”

        Rios, who has not finished out of the top 10 since '96, said he started feeling better about two weeks ago. He won at Umag, Croatia, but that was without beating any top-20 players. He was then defaulted in Los Angeles after cursing at the chair umpire.

        Last week in Toronto, he defeated Tim Henman and Arnaud Clement before losing to Jerome Golmard.

        “I'm not playing that good right now,” Rios said. “I'm not feeling good on the court. I'm not moving good. I'm not enjoying now like I used to enjoy.

        “Every time I'm on the court I don't feel like the one I used to be. I don't have the speed I had before. I don't have the strokes. And you feel pretty bad.”

        Rios rehabilitated every day for five months. Some people have told him he'll be fully recovered one year from the surgery; some have told him he will never regain his speed.

        “I'm trying to practice really hard, but it's not enough if your body's not ready to compete,” Rios said. “I'm going to give it a couple of years. I don't know what to expect. In my mind, sometimes I say I'm never going to get it back again.”

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