Taylor Dent was busy Tuesday giving Roger Federer a tough time at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne.
One day later, Dent, who is trying to make an improbable comeback from multiple back surgeries, made life easier for Tony Driscoll, the tournament director of the 2009 All Star Children’s Foundation Sarasota Open tennis tournament.
Dent, who trains at IMG Academy in Bradenton, accepted a wild card into the USTA $50,000 pro tournament that will be played May 9-16 at the Tennis Gardens on Longboat Key.
“It’s official. We got the form (Wednesday) morning. He is coming,” Driscoll said about Dent joining the field of 32 players. We are excited to have Taylor come to the
Sarasota Open this year."
Driscoll expects a strong field of 32 players and considered getting Dent is a coup.
Dent has become one of the most intriguing stories in tennis.
Once ranked as high as No. 21 in the world, the 27-year-old, serve-and-volley, right-handed player has battled career-threatening back trouble the past several years.
The injury- his L-5 vertebra was broken on both sides — has required two surgeries, and Dent spent close to a year in a body cast.
Along the way, he was told he would probably never play again.
Dent watched his ranking fall to No. 467.
His second surgery, which fused the vertebrae, went so well that Dent began to hope that he could resurrect his career. That comeback took a giant step forward this past week when Dent, who got a wild card into the qualifying tournament, beat two seeded players to reach the main draw $4.5 million tournament in Key Biscayne.
He then won three rounds, including beating two top-20 players — Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo — before losing to Federer.
“I feel like my game was there,” Dent said about pushing Federer before losing 6-3, 6-2. “As soon as my foot speed and fitness catch up, I’m going to be tough to beat.
“It’s been a dream comeback so far for me. It hasn’t been a perfect ride but the fact that I am here and still plugging away and fighting hard is a dream come true.”
While many players are heading for Europe to prepare for the clay season, Dent wants to work on building his strength and his game by staying close to home.
Playing in the Sarasota tournament offers a chance to get in some matches and earn some ranking points in comfortable surroundings and also a chance to continue to work at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
“I feel great,” Dent said about the comeback. “For me it's really a vindication for not only myself, but for my supporting staff. For someone to come from where I’ve been, it would be almost impossible without the handful of people who’ve really been supporting me the whole way.
“And, you know, a special shout out to the people at Bollettieri's. The whole crew … have really been my biggest cheering squad. So I really have to thank them to no end, and I definitely wouldn't be here without them.”