In 2016, Daniil Medvedev and Joris De Loore met in the St. Remy Challenger final. While both men were ranked outside the Top 150 at the time, their career trajectories took very different paths.

Medvedev won that meeting on French soil and collected his lone Challenger title several years before winning the 2021 US Open and becoming the sport’s top-ranked player the following year.

De Loore’s journey has been a difficult, injury-plagued career that forced him to stop playing tennis for two years (2019-2020). The Belgian underwent seven surgeries on six different body parts.

“Over seven consecutive years, every year I’ve had a surgery,” De Loore said. “The last surgery was at the end of 2020, my left hip. If I had to tell you all my injuries, we’d be here for an hour!”

 

After surgeries on his left knee (two surgeries), wrist, hip, and right elbow, hand, and toe, De Loore didn’t just throw in the towel and call it a career. He spent countless hours doing physical training right next to a tennis court, which only fueled his fire to make a comeback.

“I never really thought about quitting,” De Loore said. “It must’ve crossed my mind, but I sort of knew it was still possible [to play professionally again]. After my left hip, I had mixed feelings, because that wasn’t a minor surgery but luckily everything went well.”

The past two seasons, the 29-year-old has been playing Futures and Challenger events. This past week, in his first tournament of 2023, De Loore advanced through qualifying at the Oeiras-1 Challenger. He didn’t stop there. The Bruges native dropped just one set all week as he collected his maiden Challenger title.

In his semi-final match against Turkey’s Cem Ilkel, De Loore kept his title hopes alive as he fended off a match point in the third-set tie-break before converting his sixth match point to advance to his second Challenger final.

Joris De Loore in action at the Oeiras Indoor 1. Credit: FPT/Sara Falcao

De Loore became the oldest (29 years, 8 months) first-time winner on the Challenger Tour since 2015, when Italian Luca Vanni won his maiden title at 31.

“It feels really good,” De Loore said in his post-match press conference. “After quite a long time of not being able to play, this feeling is really good. Finally after all the work, I managed to win a Challenger.

“The title will give me a boost. I really feel physically good, playing well, and now it’s just a matter of trying to stay healthy. I think this year can be my year.”

De Loore’s determination has kept his career alive. While some may opt to retire from playing professionally and take up coaching or another position within the sport, De Loore has kept his head up and soaked in lessons learned along the way.

“Less is more, not always wanting to do the maximum [is what I’ve learned],” De Loore said. “Sometimes it’s about being able to say let’s give it a rest, not always going over the limits, and listening to what your body is saying.”

Now that he has his first Challenger title under his belt, the 6’3” Belgian has his eyes set on another career milestone.

“I want to prove that I’m able to reach the Top 100,” De Loore said. “I still feel capable of it, doesn’t mean I’m going to make it for sure, but I still have the game to do it.”

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