In the last year, Mario Ancic has been both a commerce lawyer in Zagreb, Croatia, and a tennis player. He prefers the outdoor courts to the indoor ones.
Ancic, 25, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2004, missed most of last year after being diagnosed with mononucleosis that had first been diagnosed as a bad flu in 2008. There was a time, Ancic said, when he would spit up blood while hitting a tennis ball because he didn't know what was wrong.
On Thursday, Ancic beat American qualifier Bobby Reynolds, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and he was ecstatic to have had the opportunity to play.
"It's great to feel healthy and be able to do this," law-school graduate Ancic said.
In his way, 33-year-old Carlos Moya feels the same way. Moya, who beat 22-year-old American qualifier Tim Smyczek 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5), said it wasn't an easy win.
"It's hard for me to close a match," Moya said. "There are moments when I play very well but I could win much easier. I have to get used to it again, the feeling of winning."
In the night match, 17-year-old Ryan Harrison of Shreveport, La., beat Newport Beach's Taylor Dent, 6-3, 6-4.
Like Ancic, Moya played little last year. He had toe surgery and a hamstring injury.
Ancic and Moya seemed able to rely on their memories of being big winners. They were able, despite patches of mediocre early-round tennis, to produce occasional breathtaking moments.
Ancic only played one tournament after he lost his first match here last year ,and Thursday's win was his first match of this season.
"After here last year … I didn't know what was wrong until I went to Boston," Ancic said. "I was giving a speech at Harvard Law School (about the business side of the ATP Tour) and met some doctors there who did all the tests, like I was an astronaut, head to toe and told me I had to completely rest, not do anything until almost November. Rest. Period."
The rest seems to have worked.
Ancic had a fast first step Thursday and pop on his serve.
"Last year I didn't know if I was ever going to come back," Ancic said. "I thought, ‘Mario, maybe your body is letting you down.' So I did the lawyer job at home, I went to work that way."
Then in November, Ancic was given a clean bill of health. He was allowed to play tennis again and there was no hesitation. Given a choice between practicing law and playing tennis?
"Well," he said, "what am I doing now?"
Playing tennis for at least another match.