Tennis prospect Katie Swan grateful for help from physio Mark Bender

20 March 2017 10:08

Katie Swan's hugely promising tennis career is back on track thanks to a little help from Andy Murray's 'back whisperer'.

Murray turned to Mark Bender in 2013 when he was contemplating back surgery and the physio remains a key member of his team.

Bender's latest tennis client is 17-year-old Swan, whose path to the top has been derailed by a year of injury problems.

After overcoming an abdominal issue and then a shin injury that saw her retire from the junior tournament at Wimbledon in tears last summer, Swan was dogged by six months of back spasms.

But Bender appears to have fixed the problem and Swan showed what she is capable of when injury free by winning back-to-back titles in Egypt earlier this month, dropping just two sets in 10 matches.

Swan told Press Association Sport: " He helped me so much. I saw him a few times. When I went to Egypt I felt so good.

"It was amazing, it made me feel so much more confident knowing I didn't have anything wrong with me. I could focus on my tennis and every match that I felt good afterwards made it even better for the next one.

"I made it through 10 matches without any problems and I don't think I've ever done that before."

Swan has long been marked out as a star in the making and she reached the final of the Australian Open girls' singles aged only 15.

Comparisons with Laura Robson are inevitable but Swan is confident that, as long as she dedicates herself as hard off court as on it, there is no reason she cannot stay injury free.

While the titles in Egypt were a start - and an early boon to her new coaching relationship with Tim Henman's former mentor David Felgate - her next test will show how her current level compares to the elite of women's tennis.

Swan has been given a wild card into qualifying for the Miami Open and will play her first match later on Monday.

Last year she claimed her best victory so far in the first round of qualifying, beating American Lauren Davis, who is now ranked 38th in the world.

"I wasn't going to be in Miami," said the teenager. "We decided I wasn't going to ask for a wild card this year because I didn't feel ready and then after going to Egypt for two weeks, they offered me the wild card for qualifying again and it was so exciting to know I'd almost earned myself a place.

"I feel good so hopefully I can put in a good performance."

But, however she performs at Crandon Park, the level-headed Swan knows plenty of hard work awaits at far less glamorous venues before she will have truly earned her place at the top table.

For inspiration that the process need not take too long, though, she only needs to look at her friend and former junior rival Cici Bellis.

The American, who beat Dominika Cibulkova at the US Open aged 15, has rocketed up the rankings and is closing in on the top 50.

"She's done amazing," said Swan. "That doesn't happen very often and of course everyone wants to be doing that but I know everyone takes their own time to get there.

"It's important for me to focus on myself and the things I'm doing well at the moment. Whether it takes a year or four or five years, if I'm on the right track then that's the main thing. "

Source: PA