AFTER more than two years on the sidelines with a debilitating illness, tennis ace Zoe Hives is finally on track to make her comeback to the sport.
The 24-year-old from Kingston, who turns 25 later this month, is training two to three hours every second day as she slowly aims her comeback at the Australian summer of tennis.
But given what she's been through in the past two years, she's refusing to put a date on the comeback, knowing that pushing herself too hard last summer nearly ended her career.
I tried to get ready for the Australian Open earlier this year and went backwards, so I've been pretty careful this time around," she said.
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"I really don't have a plan as such. I'm going to give myself time to make sure in 100 per cent. I have a protected ranking of 142 and that means I have 12 tournaments to use that. I have to be smart about what I do, when I do it, in order to make the most of that ranking and get going again."
In 2019, Hives looked to be on the cusp of breaking into the world's top 100.
An opening round win at the Australian Open looked to be the start of what seemed a long career ahead, but just as she was taking off, she developed glandular fever, which later developed into PoTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome).
The glandular fever hit in July 2019 with the onset of PoTS in September to October of that year. It had similar effects on Hives as to that of chronic fatigue syndrome and she spent months in bed.
Symptoms of PoTS can include light-headedness, fainting, rapid increase in heart beat and can only be relieved by sitting or lying down. It can occur after viral illnesses, such as glandular fever.
But now Hives is slowly gaining her strength back, and admits if ever there as a time to get such an illness, the start of a pandemic might have been the time.
She said just being able to play tennis without the at time debilitating dizzy spells was an incredible feeling.
"Now that I'm feeling better, I can't believe I put up with everything I did in the past two years," she said.
"In a strange way, if it was going to happen at any time, it happened at the right time.
Hives described 2019 as a mixture.
"As it was 2019 was an interesting year there were some very high highs, and some lows," she said.
"I was just starting to play better when I got sick, but I think I'll be better for it.
"Having missed so much time, I haven't had to deal with the experience of travelling around the world, so I'm not burned out or anything like that."
While Hives will not put a definitive date and on her return to the court, she holds out hope for the Australian Open qualifying rounds in January.
"I'd love to be able to play qualifying at the Australian Open," she said.
"But I'm trying not to put pressure on myself, not push too hard, so I've just got to give myself time.
"Everytime I've set goals, they've just passed, so this time I want to make sure I'm absolutely ready to go."
Hives said she had enjoyed getting home and spending time with family, something you can take for granted on the tennis tour.
She joked that she now has a lot more pet cows than she once did. "Right now, I've been hitting a lot of balls at our court at home and have been able to spend a lot of time out there," she said.
"There's been gym and aerobic sessions. I'm up to 2-3 hours every second day.
"I go real hard on my days and look to rest on the second day. I'll look to increase that.
"The time off has meant I've been susceptible to a couple of injuries.
"It's just getting the muscles used to the work again, your body gets conditioned and you can lose that."
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