Sam Groth is ready to build on his first ATP win in six months after overcoming Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert to move into the Brisbane International’s second round.
Groth had a shaky second set but recovered to win 6-3 5-7 7-5 at Pat Rafter Arena on Tuesday, and will ride his wildcard entry into a second-round match-up with Austrian fourth-seed Dominic Thiem.
It is his first tour victory since beating world No.315 Michal Przysiezny in the first round of the Newport event last July.
The 29-year-old Victorian is coming off a horror season in which his world ranking dropped to No.272 in September – way down from his career high of No.53, midway through his breakout 2015 campaign.
Groth has since improved to No.180 and moved freely against Herbert, smacking 20 aces, including one to win the match.
He said he felt as if he had been “written off” after his recent struggles but declared he is fully fit and ready to return to the world’s top 100 as soon as possible.
“Last year I probably came in with a lot of expectation on me,” he said.
“I had a really good year in 2015, won the Newcombe Medal and came in with a lot of sponsors.
“My face was sort of everywhere for the summer.
“I came in underdone after having foot surgery in the pre-season, and my year never really took off.
“But, you know, it wasn’t the worst year of my life.
“I had some great experiences and I went to the Olympics, played centre court at Rod Laver, played Rafa at the French (Open), played Nishi (Kei Nishikori) at Wimbledon, bought two houses.
“It’s not like I’m in a bad place mentally or I feel bad with my life. It was just a bad tennis year and hopefully now I can bounce back.”
Groth – who is only playing in Brisbane because a hip injury to fellow Olympian John Millman handed him direct entry – had break points at 5-5 in the second set against world No.78 Herbert but was unable to capitalise, eventually wrapping up the match in two hours and 10 minutes.
He has faced Thiem twice before, copping straight-sets defeats on both occasions last year.
“I’ve got nothing to lose again. There’s not the expectation on me. It’s all going to be on him,” Groth said.
“For me, I can come out free swinging a little bit.”