Australian Omar Jasika bouncing back after two-year ban and COVID-19 left former US Open boys' champion in limbo

Australian Omar Jasika bouncing back after two-year ban and COVID-19 left former US Open boys’ champion in limbo

In 2014, Omar Jasika put the tennis world on red alert when the young Australian won the US Open boys’ singles and doubles titles just days apart.

“That was the craziest week of my life. It was insane,” Jasika told The Sporting News.

“That was the last junior tournament I was ever going to play so it was good to go out with a bang.”

The talented youngster joined the ATP World Tour just months later and looked poised for a bright future in the sport.

But at the end of 2017, his tennis dreams came crashing down after testing positive for cocaine while trying to secure a wildcard into the Australian Open.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) subsequently handed Jasika, who was 20 at the time, a crippling two-year ban.

Despite the setback, his time on the sidelines only clarified how badly he wanted to succeed on the court.

“A bit of a mistake I made when I was younger. I definitely learned from that. We all make mistakes as kids,” Jasika said when asked about his ban.

“It was pretty hard not playing for so long after playing nearly 17 years of my life. It made me realize how much I actually missed it and that I wanted to be tennis player again to be honest.

“I think it made me grow as a person at the same time so that was a good thing that came out of that.

“I didn’t get much support, not at all. Just had to do it myself in those hard times which made me a lot stronger.”

The curveball that was the COVID-19 pandemic also meant that by the time Jasika returned to the court earlier this year, it had been over four years since he competed on a regular basis.

But after watching on for so long, he has hit the ground running in 2022 and picked up his second ITF title in Thailand on April 24.

Jasika didn’t drop a set across his five matches in Chiang Rai and that success came just a month after also triumphing at a Futures event in Bendigo.

“I feel like I’m in some form over the past few months. Have played a lot of matches which has played a part,” he said.

“I’m just going with the flow. Haven’t been thinking about it too much (winning titles). Just taking it day by day and the results are coming in.”

The 24-year-old’s fine form has seen his ranking rise nearly 1000 places in the space of a few months.

In February, he scraped into the ATP rankings at 1433 but as of late April now sits at 571.

That numerical rise is significant in more ways than one with more events now on Jasika’s radar in the coming months.

“So far so good. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me this year in terms of the Challenger schedule,” he said.

“I sort of wanted to get out of Futures as quick as I can so I think these next few weeks I’ll see how my ranking goes and we can plan better.

“Going to England next week for another two tournaments, then Greece for two weeks and then see where my ranking is after that.

“Play some Challengers hopefully – that’s the plan.”

Looking back to his US Open triumph in 2014, where the likes of current stars Matteo Berrettini and Andrey Rublev also competed, Jasika believes he still has what it takes to join them at the top of the tennis pyramid.

“I think so. I’ve got the ball rolling,” he said.

“I just need to keep focused, stay in my lane and see where I can get to.”

After an early fault in his career, it’s clear Jasika is determined to make the most of his second chance on the tennis court.

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