Covid-19 has had a huge impact on many athletes around the world, but for Zoe Hives the global pandemic has taken a backseat to her own battles.
Hives, who made the second round of the 2019 Australian Open, has been dealing with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), which has caused dizziness and other symptoms as well as chronic fatigue.
What was initially glandular fever, the driven 24-year-old opted to push through and continue playing, a decision she concedes she would make differently if she had her time over again. Nonetheless, the past two years has been the most challenging of her career, only now coming out the other side of a gruelling period.
"As an athlete you just want to push, you want to keep going, but sometimes you've just got to stop," Hives told The First Serve.
"I really should've stopped when I had glandular fever.
"It just got worse, I just got more tired and dizzier.
"I would've never thought it would take this long to get over."
While many people have felt the burden of the pandemic in recent times, Hives said she has been less affected given her focus on her own battle. Hives has been aided by the freedoms she is lucky enough to enjoy at home on the family property where she has a tennis court, gym equipment and a supportive family.
Hives, currently ranked 598 in the world, said in a strange way if Covid-19 had to happen, for it to overlap with a time period where she would not have been playing tennis anyway was somewhat fortunate.
"If Covid was going to happen, it happened at a good time for me. If I was just getting back into it now and it came up next year, that would be very hard."
It has been a long and slow road back for Hives, who is relishing the opportunity to be back out on the practice court and turning an eye towards her next tournament.
Given the long layoff from competitive tennis, Hives will benefit from a protected ranking of 142 for 12 tournaments, she can play more events but that would be at her current ranking.
Hives said she would have to be smart in plotting her return, choosing her tournaments wisely to best restore her ranking. While Australian Open qualifiers remain the hope, she is mindful of not pushing her limits.
"I'm not feeling dizzy on-court anymore, I've just got to get my cognitive endurance back up again. I've had to retrain my body as much as my mind.
"Just training and being able to run around on-court is great, so I'm really looking forward to being able to compete.
"I've had to take it pretty slow this year just to make sure I'm in the right position.
"I just want to make sure I'm 100% when I do go."
Hives has endured her fair share of ups and downs during her tennis career, battling injury and illness along with the natural ebb and flow of form. But her passion and drive remains strong.
She said it would not sit comfortably with her if she took her tennis in a different direction, the desire to give herself a genuine run at it is burning as fierce as ever.
"I just really want to have a proper go at it. I've been injured, I've now had this. I just want to have one really good crack at it and see where I can get, I don't think I'd be happy until I get that shot.
"Playing in the 2019 Aussie Open, that gives me motivation to get there again, there's nothing quite like that.
"I wouldn't be happy if I just stopped playing... it's going to be tough coming back, but I have done it before."
Listen to The First Serve with Brett Phillips each Monday at 8pm AEST on 1116AM SEN Melbourne, 1629AM SEN SA / 1170am Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App.
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