24-year-old Omar Jasika has made a resounding return to professional tennis over the past month, capped off by claiming his 5th career title in Bendigo last week, and his first since 2017.
“It was pretty surreal to me to be honest,” Jasika told The First Serve.
“I don’t think it’s kicked in for me yet, but it’s honestly such a great feeling to be able to play futures again and just to play tennis again and compete.”
Jasika managed just one match at the professional level between March 2018 and the start of 2022, due to a drug-related ban from tennis followed by the Covid-19 pandemic. He has now amassed 16 matches already this year, including 13 victories and the title in Bendigo on Sunday.
“I think this title really helped me to gain some confidence very quickly, because I was a little bit scared with how I would go coming back into the pro tour.
“I wasn’t sure if I was fit enough, but I think I proved myself wrong and played some good tennis last week. My ranking has gone up to 702 which I think is a good start for me and we’re only in March.”
The Bendigo decider was Jasika’s first professional final in more than five years, admitting that the gap did create some extra nerves for him.
“I’ve sort of forgotten how to control my emotions it’s been so long. I struggled to sleep the night before because I hadn’t been in a one for a while.
“I just tried not to think about being in the final too much.”
In no way overawed by the moment, Jasika played flawless tennis and hit very few errors to overcome the in-form James McCabe 6-1, 6-2.
“As for the match, I was pretty locked in and zoned in. I was playing off a lot of adrenaline and I think I barely missed a ball which was very good for me.”
Jasika further opened up about the personal struggles he has faced over the past few years, which have unfortunately kept him away from the tennis court.
“It’s been really tough for me mentally, especially during the lockdown. I felt like tennis was against me, it didn’t really want me to play. But I kept trying to stay positive as much as I could.
“I’m just stoked to be back travelling again and looking forward to competing and trying to be the best person I can.”
The 24-year-old from Melbourne who won the US Open Boys Singles and Doubles titles back in 2014, feels as though he is beginning to rediscover his best tennis.
“I feel like I’m starting to play like myself again. I feel like I’m a bit wiser and smarter now with my shot selections. And I think I’m getting a lot fitter and stronger.”
Jasika, who won his 1st round match of the 2016 Australian Open, aims to “get back to that level” of playing in Grand Slam main draws, but is focussing on each match as it comes in the short term.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do, and this is only baby steps for me. I’m not trying to think too far ahead.
“I’m just trying to stay where my feet are at the moment, take each day how it goes and see where it takes me.”
The Aussie will now compete in the final two ITF events in Canberra before heading off to Europe to continue building up his ranking.
“I think my schedule opens up a little bit more now that I’ve taken that title in Bendigo.
“I’m going to head overseas, probably to France or Turkey, and just try to climb up the rankings as quick as I can by the end of the year.”