LAVAL, Québec – It had been 14 months since Canadian Brayden Schnur stepped on court for a pro tournament when he pulled his roller bag onto the stadium court in Laval, Québec.
It’s a pretty quiet, nondescript suburb, just over the bridge from Montreal but seemingly a million miles away.
And it’s a long, long way from Wimbledon, which was beginning its second week as the 28-year-old prepared to return to action.
(Update: Schnur was a late scratch for his match Monday in Granby against Christian Harrison, replaced by a lucky loser).
The roller bag, and the hooking of his towel in the chain-link fence rather than leaving it on court as most of the players do, are concessions to the back woes that took him off the court for such an extended period.
Schnur cracked the top 100 almost exactly four years ago, after a standout college career at the University of North Carolina. Earlier that year, he’d posted his first career ATP-level win at the New York Open, and went all the way to the final in that tournament.
But the back had other ideas. And the interim had, mostly, been a struggle.
Looking Good in First Match
And yet, as Schnur warmed up against Tristan McCormick, a 24-year-old American who spent four years at Notre Dame, a fifth year at the University of Georgia, is built like a tight end and has very nimble feet for a big guy (and a flashy, if inconsistent one-handed backhand), he looked like he’d never been away.
Among all of the aspiring pros taking part in this $25,000 ITF tournament, who ranged from career Futurists to college players on summer break to youngsters dipping their toes into the pros for the first time, you can tell level when you see it.
And Schnur had it, getting through the first set against McCormick in a tiebreak.
It was windy. And it was getting dark. And an electrical malfunction meant that the lights, which were to turn on automatically at 8 p.m., didn’t turn on.
And so at 3-3 in the second set, they had to suspend play.
Here’s what that first part looked like.
Picking it Up the Next Day
When the two returned the next day to finish the match, they were on a different court.
But even though you couldn’t really see it, Schnur was struggling.
He had points to break McCormick late in the set and serve it out. But he couldn’t make it.
He led 5-4 in the second-set tiebreak, with the match on his racquet – and double-faulted.
After losing that second-set tiebreak, Schnur suddenly walked up and shook McCormick’s hand.
The comeback was aborted. Just like that.
The plan was for Schnur to do an interview with Open Court after his first match back.
Not surprisingly, he really wasn’t feeling up to it.
He did say that the back was fine – which is a big thing. But that he was just depleted.
Schnur relocated to the West Coast during his absence to be with his girlfriend, who is a track and field athlete.
He did play some in preparation for his return. Schnur competed in two “Universal Tennis” cash events in Calgary in June, both with $20,000 in prize money.
In the first one, he won his first two round-robin matches but withdrew from the other two.
In the second, he won out – all six matches in straight sets.
But the competition there wasn’t even close to McCormick who – rather shockingly given how good he is – is ranked … No. 495.
Schnur now heads to the Granby Challenger, where he’ll face a good friend, American Christian Harrison, in the first round on Monday.
Harrison has had more than half a dozen surgeries and comebacks in his career. So if anything, he can relate to how bumpy the comeback road can be.