“The first week was just tragic. I started by just walking. I couldn’t really do any exercise. I could not lift weights. I couldn’t play tennis,” Dimitrov said, adding that he lost a lot of weight while sick.
“It was a really dark moment,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.”
Eventually, Dimitrov said, he would practice for 20 minutes at a time, then built that up in increments. Still, he was doubtful about getting back on tour at the Western & Southern Open, the first ATP tournament since tennis went on hiatus in March because of the pandemic.
Dimitrov said he hopes his experience with the coronavirus can serve as a bit of a cautionary tale for those who might not take the illness seriously.
“I just kind of wanted to show a message that it doesn’t matter, in a sense, ‘who you are,’ how fit you are and how healthy you eat and so on,” Dimitrov said. “This thing doesn’t ask anybody [those things]. We’re all equal.”
In women’s first-round matches on day two of the hardcourt tournament, 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens was eliminated by Caroline Garcia 6-3, 7-6 (4), and Jessica Pegula got past Jennifer Brady – who won her first WTA title last week at Lexington, Kentucky – 7-6 (5), 6-4.
Other winners included No. 12 Anett Kontaveit, No. 14 Elise Mertens and American qualifier CiCi Bellis.
Two seeded men exited: No.10 Andrey Rublev, beaten 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 by Daniel Evans; and No.13 Cristian Garin, a 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-0 loser against Aljaz Bedene. Men’s winners included No.11 seed Karen Khachanov, whose 6-4, 6-4 victory began with his opponent, Alexander Bublik, trying an underhand serve; No.9 Diego Schwartzman, No.16 John Isner and American qualifier Marcos Giron, who beat Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (2), 7-5 in a match-up between former college teammates at UCLA.