Maximilian Neuchrist, a quarterfinalist at the Tombim Abuja Open in 2018, returns to Nigeria’s capital city to compete, alongside other players from around the world, for top honours on the ITF World Tennis Tour.

The 27-year-old Austrian had quite a campaign in Abuja last year, with quarterfinal finishes at the Tombim Abuja Open and the GSL Open coming on either side of a title-winning run at the Dayak Tennis Championships.

Despite being out of action since September last year due to injury, Neuchrist comes into the Tombim Open as the top-ranked player in the main draw and is seeded No.1. For some players, being the top seed always comes with a pressure to deliver, but the Austrian says he is all about being on court again and just wants to compete.

“Not at all,” said the top seed, when asked if he felt any pressure ahead of the tournament. “Because I’m coming back from injury, I haven’t competed for 7 months in a row. Basically, the only pressure I feel is to be able to compete without any physical problem. If I can manage this, I will be very happy.”

The 13-time ITF World Tour champion was kept on the sidelines for 7 months with a torn achilles tendon, with his most recent competitive outing being the Kaohsiung Challenger in Taipei in September 2018, where he lost in the opening round. He is, however, now happy to be back.

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Maximilian Neuchrist won his 13th ITF World Tour crown at the Dayak Tennis C’ships in Abuja last year.

“If you don’t compete for 7 months, you’d just be happy to be on court again, every athlete knows that,” the 27-year-old said.

Following his outing in Abuja last year, Neuchrist moved up the rungs of the professional ladder to compete on the Challenger Tour, and made instant impact when he reached the semifinals of the Loughborough Challenger in Great Britain. In August, he played in the qualifying rounds of the US Open, but fell short.

Having been out of action for a long time, the Austrian has now moved back to the ITF Tour and chose Abuja, given the city’s suitable conditions, to get back on track.

“I have to start at one point,” he said on his decision to return to the ITF Tour. “I have protected rankings from the ATP, I’d use that for Challenger.”

“I know the conditions here [Abuja] and I like them. I felt very comfortable here last year. My coach and I took the decision to come back here. I want to use the ITF World Tour to know how the leg is working and doing. After this, I’m ready to use my protected rankings for some Challenger Tour.”

This week and the coming weeks will be loaded with competitive action, and Neuchrist desires to be in the thick of it, with a couple of tough matches to ascertain his fitness level.

“The wish and the goal is to compete some tough matches back to back, some tough singles, 2 sets, 3 sets, and hope my achilles tendon don’t feel any worse. That’s the most important thing to me,” said Neuchrist.

“When I know this, I know I can compete for the win. And I’m very tough to beat here if the physical conditions hold, I’m the guy to beat.”