London: Bernard Tomic is at his best in Australia, and at Wimbledon, where the former quarter-finalist returns on Monday feeling better about his game and his body than he has since his double hip surgery five months ago. First up is Evgeny Donskoy; next could be sixth seed Tomas Berdych.
Grass is Tomic’s preferred surface, and 100th-ranked Donskoy a should-beat opponent he has never faced. The Queenslander has won just two main draw matches since January, but both have come in the past two weeks. ''I’m feeling pretty good. The first match is going to be very important for me to win and break through, and then who knows after?'' Tomic said. ''I’m gonna need a good feel for the court if I win, leading onto the second round.''
Second round talk may be ambitious, given the scarcity of wins of late, but Tomic has used the limited time at his disposal to concentrate on a return game that has not matched his higher serving standards in the lead-up events at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne. ''I’ve touched up what I needed to do,'' he said, pleased and relieved to be back at the site of his last-eight breakthrough in 2011.
''Different feeling to any (other) tournament. I always play well here, so I’m happy to be back. it’s been a rough few months with the injuries and the surgeries I’ve had, so I’m happy to be playing one of my favourite tournaments, so hopefully I can play well again.''
Davis Cup captain Josh Eagle has seen some positive signs, too. ''Grass is his best surface by a long way, and so Bernie would be expecting to do well,'' Eagle said. ''He’s got to match up against Donskoy in the first round, which I think he will win, and I think even if you look further in the draw he plays Berdych potentially in the second, and I think that’s a good match-up for him as well.
''He probably would have liked a few more matches, though, coming into Wimbledon, which is historically his best grand slam, but he’s heading in the right direction now, which is a positive for him. I expect him to go all right.’’
Higher up the food chain, the Wimbledon seeding formula deemed the Big Four to be the top four, by relegating Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka to fifth and installing defending champion Andy Murray in his (third) place. But as for whether they will be the last four? Hmmm. Let’s see.
Top seed Novak Djokovic, who has lost five of his past six grand slam finals, has ongoing wrist issues. No.2 Rafael Nadal has won a single match in his past two Wimbledons. No.3 Andy Murray has not reached a final since winning Wimbledon last year. No.4 Roger Federer is almost 33 and has gone two years since the last of his 17 majors. Will the stranglehold - finally - be broken?
If so, it did not stop Federer from talking up his chances of adding an eighth Wimbledon to his stash, admitting how much different the grasscourt scenario is than the reliably losing battle he faces annually on Parisian clay. “I feel like if things click here, yeah, I should be able to win the tournament here; whereas at the French I feel like I'm slightly more dependent on Rafa. He's the only guy really,’’ said Federer, who was a shock second round loser to Sergiy Stahkovsky here in 2013.
“II feel like if I play my game it's more on my racquet. As soon as that's the case, you're more confident in your chance. I feel I have a very good chance again this year. I hope to utilise my fitness, the amount of matches I've played this year. So I'm really coming in with a much better feeling than maybe last year, for instance.’’
And if Federer was Murray, how relaxed would he feel? “I would probably feel better than four or five months ago, or six months ago when he was waking up from surgery - let's be honest. I think he's fought back nicely, bravely. I think he is where he wants to be before Wimbledon, in my opinion,’’ said Federer, who plays Paolo Lorenzi on Tuesday.
“Clearly in a perfect world you don't want to have surgery, looking back one year ago. I still think he's good enough now to defend again; whereas maybe three to four to five months ago, honestly I wasn't sure about that. But now I think the way he's playing, the way he's got himself back into shape again, I think he can really believe again. That's what's most important now.’’
The story Bernard Tomic happy to be back at Wimbledon after a difficult year first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.