Treat Huey: The end of a year-long break

Treat Huey: The end of a year-long break

Treat Huey bared plans of joining the SEA Games.
By Kristoffer Ed Bellen

MANILA—Tennis has never been a priority sport in the Philippines.

But when the country finally bumped into the best player that it has had for over a long time, it sure made various headlines.

Undoubtedly, the Philippines is a sporting country, and, perhaps, to no avail, it is home to some of the world's best athletes in some sports.

Boxing's only eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao and probably the greatest player to ever play pool, Efren 'Bata' Reyes, are just among the country’s all-time greats.

Yet, albeit all the successes that the country amassed in all of other sporting events around the world, it still seems like developing a future star in the ATP and WTA Tour is so far-fetched given, let's say, the lack of attention that the Philippine government has for the sport.

But, in 2016, the country's 'sphaeristike' spirit—for historical references—seemed to have been revived.

The Philippines witnessed the revelation of Filipino tennis star Treat Huey after reaching the Nitto ATP Doubles Finals in London with Belarus' legend Max Mirnyi.

Huey is a doubles specialist—the world knows that, at least the Philippine tennis community does as well—and, even though the country does not have a Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic, at least we have Huey.

After reaching 18 tour-level doubles finals, Huey achieved the peak of his career from 2015 up to 2016, where he tallied his career-high ATP Doubles ranking as the world number 18 and ended up winning eight of those championship matches.

Yet, despite a successful stint over the past few years, the previous season passed by leaving many Filipino tennis fans—including myself—wondering, “Where did Treat Huey go?”

Playing in his only Grand Slam main draw last year, Huey teamed up with Brazil's Marcelo Demoliner, but the two suffered a first round exit against Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-ul Haq Qureshi, 6-7(6), 4-6.

The following week, Huey decided to compete at a Challenger event in Newport Beach where he reached the final with Dennis Kudla—his last competitive match ever in 2018.

But afterward, he lost in the first round in five of the next six events where he competed, including in his last tournament at Le Gosier last March.

In an interview with Dugout Philippines, Treat Huey revealed that he had suffered a back injury.

His team has opted not to undergo surgery but take on full physical rehabilitation instead.

"Last March, I went to see a back specialist after really struggling for a month or so and I was told I had three bulging discs and a pinched nerve in my lower back.

"My doctor and I decided surgery was not the best option and I have done a lot of work with my physical therapist, chiropractor and doctor to get back to 100 percent," Huey said.

Surely, that injury took a huge toll in Huey's career, as his rankings prove to say the least.

At this time last year, Huey was still inside the Top 100, ranked number 62.

However, as of posting, he is close to leaving the Top 500 being ranked as 462nd around the world.

Injuries have always been a liability for all pro athletes, and tennis players are not exempted.

But, while there are a few who still manages to overcome their injuries as if they did not suffer from any of it—take Federer and Djokovic, for example, who both chose to miss almost a full season in 2016 and 2017—others struggled big time.

For instance, Andy Murray, arguably the best Olympic tennis player ever and the rightful member of the this era's Big Four, has long been suffering from a hip injury that pushed him to heavily contemplate about retirement after this year's Wimbledon.

"We made a six-month plan of complete rest to start and then did a lot of flexibility in my physical therapy sessions after a month or two and moved on gradually to getting stronger while also continuing to get more mobility in my hips and lower back," the University of Virginia alum said.

All the rest and rehabilitation proved to be beneficial at his expense as he was able to play on a tennis court for the first time after nine months last December.

He even managed to spend the offseason with fellow Filipino players such as Rubén Gonzales.

However, just as Huey and team thought that things already work as planned, he and his coach Othmane Garma decided to restructure his plans of going back into the court.

Before the start of the Australian Open, a confident Huey told Dugout Philippines: "I was hoping to be back at the start of this year for the Australian Open but I was not just 100 percent ready at the end of December.”

"I'm physically ready and fit, but I need more work on the practice court so that when I am back playing tournaments, my level is high again," Huey uttered.

"My coach and I tried to organize a training camp in December for myself and a lot of the other Filipino players like Ruben, Francis, Jurence and some of the other younger players but I wasn’t healthy enough yet and the timing just didn’t work out. Hopefully we can do training camps like that this year in preparation for SEA Games," he added.

Speaking of Southeast Asian Games, the 33-year-old star confirmed to Dugout Philippines that he will be playing for the Philippines when the country hosts the biennial regional tournament on November.

"I am 100 percent going to play [in the] SEA Games, and I can't wait to give it my all to hopefully win one or more gold medals at the SEA Games, especially because this year is in the Philippines," said Huey, who started representing the Philippines in 2009 at the Davis Cup.

For now, though, Huey and his team sets their sight for his return at the court next month.

"I am feeling good and completely healthy now. I have been practicing and playing a lot more since the end of December and I am getting closer to making my return to competition.

"I will be able to use my protected ranking and be able to get in ATP events and the grand slams when I start playing tournaments again starting in March," he shared.

Follow him on Twitter: @KristoffBellen

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