In 2017, Steve Darcis had a career-best world ranking of No 38.

In 2018, Darcis could not play a single match due to a debilitating elbow injury and fell of the ATP rankings.

In 2019, Darcis became the first unranked semi-finalist in ATP history at the Tata Open Maharashtra, his first tournament back.

The 34-year-old from Belgium entered the tournament with a protected ranking and played a remarkable game to beat sixth seed Roberto Carballes Baena, 20-year-old Michael Mmoh in a three-hour grind, and fourth seed Malek Jaziri, setting up a historic last-four clash with Ivo Karlovic.

It may not be a fairytale return but Darcis’s solid comeback has been received with cheers from tennis fans all over. Best known for being “Mr Davis Cup”, he has been laid low by injuries before. But the 2018 layoff was much longer than expected and many believed that it was the end of the road for the 34-year-old.

But Darcis is nothing if not a dogged fighter.

“It was tough because 2017 was my best year and then I couldn’t play, [so] mentally it was hard,” he told “I have been through a lot of bad times but I am fighter, so I am back.

“I tried to take the time to recover and see that everything was healed. It took more [longer] than I thought but I needed this time and it worked.”

While he was satisfied with his performance, Darcis admitted that playing daily, against much younger opponents, is something that he is not completely comfortable with as yet.

“I feel tired,” he said, laughing, when talking about his fitness. “After such a long time it is always tough to play matches. Even if you train very hard it is not the same to play three matches in a row... it hasn’t happened since a long time. But I am recovering, everyday I feel better than before and it gets easier.”

The one match that really stood out in Pune was when he beat Mmoh, who is 14 years his junior, in the longest match of the tournament. It was the toughest test of his fitness, and the veteran came through, flying the flag for the many 30-plus men on ATP Tour.

“I am playing guys like 20-21 years old every other day, it is very funny because I am 34 and I am till here, playing very good tennis, enjoying,” he said.

“It’s not too late, I am going to fight every day a little more. There are a lot of young kids and now I am part of the old guys. But when you see players like Roger [Federer], you see Ivo [Karlovic], they are playing longer than me.”

Change in equipment to help elbow

When Novak Djokovic returned to tennis after an elbow injury early last year, he had to modify his serve to reduce the pressure on his elbow. Darcis said that while he was against changing any aspect of his game, he has switched to lighter racquets and strings to play without pain.

“I didn’t change anything about the game because if I have to change something, it is better to stop,” he said with a laugh. “Right now I have found the perfect combination with the racquet and string and that is why I can play without pain at the moment.”

The Belgian has justifiably not set any goals for 2019, except for enjoying his tennis and planning a smart schedule, the latter being the most important bit. He was to play a Challenger in Canberra before the Australian Open, but after reaching the semi-finals in Pune he withdrew and will head straight to Melbourne.

“I’ll try to play as much as I can,” he said. “If I am tired, I am going to not play the week after.

“I need to be really clever because if I play too much, I am going to kill myself. Take my time and enjoy, that is the best thing I can do.”

No interview with Mr Davis Cup can end without a question about the tournament. And even as he smiled when called by the moniker, Darcis is upset with the drastic changes to the format.

“I am totally against this. For me it is not the Davis Cup anymore, it is just another competition,” he said.

“I don’t understand why they changed it, but it is like this. We are going to play Brazil in February, [but] I don’t know if I am going to play,” he replied.

Darcis is also awaiting more information on the ATP Cup, which is being seen as the replacement to the Davis Cup.

“I heard about the new competition, I heard it is going to be very good but I still want to know what is going on. We have a meeting next week in Melbourne and they are going to explain a little bit more,” he said.

For now, he is focused on making history at the Maharashtra Open, as he aims to become the first unranked ATP finalist.