AEGON CHAMPIONSHIPS 2014
Tomic Starting Afresh On The Grass
The Queen's Club, London, England
by Kate Flory|
It’s not been the start to the season that Bernard Tomic hoped for. While his contemporaries have pushed on towards the Top 10, the Australian saw his campaign curtailed in January as he underwent bilateral hip surgery after retiring in the Australian Open first round against Rafael Nadal.
But, after a scratchy comeback on the European clay, the 21-year-old Tomic is now looking to make a fresh start to his 2014 season on the grass, where he has enjoyed some of the best results of his young career. He opened his bid Monday with a hard-fought three-set win over Tim Smyczek at the Aegon Championships in London.
“It’s been very difficult. I played well at the start of the year like I always do, then I was meant to play Nadal at the Australian Open and I couldn’t finish the match unfortunately,” said Tomic, who reached the Sydney final in the second week of the season (l. to del Potro).
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“But we needed to do two hip operations. I felt pretty strange for a few months and it was a difficult process in the rehab. There was a lot of time that I had to spend building up my strength and flexibility.
“The last sort of month has been matches for me, which has been important to get back. I’m OK now and I’m on my favourite surface, grass. I’m feeling pretty good and I’m happy that the surgery went well because you never know sometimes on that.”
The surgeries Tomic underwent corrected a lifelong structural problem by reshaping the head of his femur to allow better range of movement, and also repaired labrum and ligament tears. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald in February, Tomic’s physio, Ivan Gutierrez, predicted Tomic will eventually move up to 30 per cent more freely as a result.
“I sort of knew about it at the back of my mind when I was a bit younger,” Tomic told ATPWorldTour.com at The Queen’s Club. “If I had waited for a longer period, until I hit the age of 24, 25, I would have waited much more time for it to heal with the rehab. Might as well do it at the age of 21, when the recovery stage is much quicker, as opposed to doing it later down the track.
“You either have it or you don’t, these hip issues,” continued the right-hander. “If you’re not a sportsman, it’s tough to figure out if you’ve got it or not. In the sport of tennis, where you’re moving so much physically, you’re going to feel it over time. I felt like I needed to do it to get a much better improvement in my range in my hips and lower back. I managed to do it, so I’m very happy.”
Grass has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Tomic. He reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon as an 18-year-old qualifier in 2011, recording his first Top 10 win over then-No. 5 Robin Soderling before his run came to an end in four sets against eventual champion Novak Djokovic. Last year, he beat No. 9-ranked Richard Gasquet to reach the fourth round at The Championships.
“It’s good to get on grass,” admitted Tomic. “It’s a relief because clay is difficult for me. [Queen’s is] my first tournament on grass with the hips. You’ve got to react differently, feel the court differently and that’s what I’m trying to do. Some people go four or five months getting their timing and feel back after surgery. I’m happy I started in the last month. I won a match, managed to lose a few, some pretty tight ones. It’s good to get a win here on the grass.
“[My body] felt good. It’s different tennis because the balls are shooting through low and you’ve got to react quicker. So I’ve got to get used to that, especially in the next week, leading on to the next few tournaments and Wimbledon.”
After what he hopes will be a fruitful run at The Queen’s Club, Tomic expects to build on his confidence levels on his return to the All England Club in two weeks’ time.
“Absolutely [Wimbledon will give me confidence]. You take [past results in] when playing on grass. I need a lot of confidence now, especially with the surgeries I’ve had in the past four months. Confidence is the key for me now. I have to get another match under my belt [at Queen’s] to feel a little bit more confident. It will do me a lot of good if I can win this next match.”
While undergoing rehab and making a tentative return to the ATP World Tour in the spring, Tomic has watched on as Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic entered the Top 10, and Grigor Dimitrov built on his run to the Australian Open quarter-finals. It has served as added motivation for Tomic, who hopes he can rise back up and improve on his career-high Emirates ATP Rankings position of World No. 27.
“I think Grigor did very well the last six months. He managed to break inside the Top 20, which has been good. He’s always had it in him, same as Raonic. I think [Raonic has] held it a little bit longer, for the past two and a half years inside the Top 20,” commented Tomic.
“I’ve been close. I’ve managed to be between No. 27 and No. 35 for a while. I want to be inside the Top 20 and I need to focus. Especially getting back from the surgery is difficult for me. This year I’ll use getting back as high as I can. I missed three months and it’s not easy to catch those points. These next six to seven months will hopefully boost me back into the Top 40, which would be good.”