Tennis star on the road to recovery

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

This wasn't the way Peter Polansky wanted to make the pages of Sports Illustrated.

This week's edition, with Masters champ Phil Mickelson on the cover, features a two-page spread highlighting pro athletes who have suffered through sleeping disorders, and details the ordeal involving the 17-year-old Thornhill resident, two weeks ago in Mexico City.

Polansky, one of Canada's rising young tennis stars, and an alternate on the Canadian Davis Cup squad, was in Mexico City with the team when he dreamt he was being attacked by a knife-wielding man who had entered his hotel room and was standing near his bed.

Polansky, sleep-walking, went to the window, kicked out the glass, and fell three storeys, hitting a bush. He remembers waking up, landing on his back.

Polansky suffered over 420 stitches to both legs, severing the popliteal artery in his left leg, and came within millimetres of severing the femoral artery, which most likely would have been fatal. Polansky was convinced he was going to lose the left leg, but after five hours of surgery in Mexico he began the long recovery.

He suffered no broken bones in the incident.

Lying in a hospital bed at the family home, Polansky says he will soon try to get to the source of what triggered the incident. There's no family history of sleep disorder.

"I'm a little worried," Polansky said, "because I couldn't control it when it happened."

The fact that he missed major arteries and nerves, and that he missed the cement around the hotel, is a miracle, he has been told.

"We've been told he can get back to full capacity, playing like he was before," his coach, Dean Coburn, said. Polansky's days now are filled up by rest, rehab with Coburn -- ultrasound to help heal the scar tissue -- and school work.

Remarkably, one of his doctors has told him he could be playing tennis again in four-to-six months. Coburn plans to get him out in a wheelchair, hitting tennis balls, next week.

"They say I'm healing a lot faster than they thought," he said.

Sleep was restless over those first few nights. Polansky says he was feeling fine the night of the incident, and hadn't seemed under stress -- a common cause of sleepwalking. He stays in contact with other Davis Cup members, and flowers and cards from well-wishers adorn the family home.

His mother, Beata, says after her son heals and is able to resume his tennis career, there's no way he will be sleeping alone in any hotel room when on the road with the team.

"I'll make sure he has somebody staying with him," she said.


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