The 30-year-old, currently No. 246 in the ATP Rankings, has made full use of his wildcard by advancing to the quarter-finals. His upset victories over Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and sixth seed John Millman of Australia marked the first time in seven years that Balazs has reached the last eight at this level (2012 Bucharest SF, l. to Fognini).
His run in Budapest is even more surprising considering that he’s in the early stages of coming back from a hip injury. Balazs returned to action in March after being sidelined for seven months.
“It means a lot to me. It’s a special feeling to play in front of friends and family, so I’m really enjoying the support,” said Balazs. “This result is a surprise for me and a very positive sign for the upcoming weeks. I was hoping to be back very quickly, but wasn’t expecting to do so well at that point.”
Injury woes were what prompted Balazs to retire from the tour in August 2014, four years after reaching his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 153. But life as a tennis coach wasn’t what he envisioned and thoughts of a comeback soon entered his mind.
“It was just too boring,” laughed Balazs. “I said that I’m too young for coaching and felt the motivation in myself to make a comeback. I felt that I had nothing to lose and obviously now I’m very happy with the decision.”
Balazs returned to action in August 2016 and won 10 ITF Futures events in his first year back. He has primarily competed in clay-court ATP Challenger Tour events since then because “the best weapons I have are my kick serve and my drop shot. Those shots work better on clay than some other surfaces.”
Happiness off the court – his daughter, Izabella, was born in February 2017 – has translated into success on the court. With no ATP Rankings points to defend in the last four months of this season, Balazs is convinced he can crack the Top 150 for the first time and climb even higher.
“This week has given me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I’m going to play some Challengers after this and I feel good for those events. I know that I can do well now against the players I’ll need to face at that level.”