Canberra ACT, Australia, 21 March 2017 | David Packman

Queensland wildcard Jason Kubler has travelled a long and winding road to finally arrive in Canberra for the ACT Clay Court Internationals, his first professional outings since early 2016.

Forced to sit on the sidelines for extended periods throughout his promising career due to troublesome knees, the former world No.136 (November 2014) has now undergone a total of six surgeries, five on his left knee and one on his right.

“The first time was an accident and now I think just because that happened I have a higher chance of it happening again,” Kubler said. “A couple of times I think I’ve just been unlucky.”

“I rehabbed after the surgery in September 2015, played four tournaments, and then had to get another one the next May,” he continued. “Having them back-to-back like that was tough, and it was very up-and-down mentally.”

After eight months of further rehabilitation, Kubler began to feel a familiar pain again.

“It was tough to deal with that,” he said. “It was just pushing things out longer and longer and you start to get a bit upset because you want to get back on court and you aren’t able to.

“Before I knew I was going to play in Canberra, it was probably the toughest. I was still wondering if I should even play. There were times when I had to think if I can’t do this, then what other ways can I go? I’m just happy that I’m playing again and I’m hoping that my knees get better and better.”

Despite a loss last week in his first outing, Kubler has arrived in Canberra with a keen sense of anticipation about what lies ahead now he is playing competitively again. “Finally I am able to play some matches,” he said. “It was very exciting.”

“You can prepare as much as you want, but it’s easy to start overthinking things, so it was actually really good just to get that first one out of the way.

“It has been so good to see guys that I haven’t seen for so long. I’m hitting with them every day now.”

This week, in the second Canberra ITF Futures event, Kubler finds himself up against American Nathan Pasha, in a side of the draw that would see him play last week’s champion, second seed Marc Polmans, in a quarterfinal.

“We haven’t played before but I was only training with him a few days ago,” Kubler said of his unseeded American opponent. “It should be a good match.”

As far as the longer term, Kubler’s experiences have led him to become perhaps wiser than his years. At 23 – “Well, it feels like everything else is 23, but my knees are more like 40” – the Queenslander says that it’s now more about just enjoying the moment.

“It’s getting to the stage now where if I was to need another surgery, I’d say that’s probably a bit too much and I’d stop,” he said. “So right now, it’s just about enjoying what I’m doing. Who knows how much longer I will be playing? It could be six months, a year, or I could play my whole career out, but right now I just want to link up with other Aussie guys on tour and enjoy what I do.”

While Kubler faces Pasha on Tuesday, other Aussies such as third seed Omar Jasika will also join the action. He takes on last week’s surprise quarterfinalist Steven de Waard, while semifinalist Maverick Banes, the No.8 seed, plays Jake Delaney. Wildcard Lucas Vuradin, Thomas Fancutt and Gavin Van Peperzeel will also open their accounts.

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