17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer begins his 2014 season tomorrow afternoon, when he takes to the courts in Queensland for his second round encounter against Jarkko Nieminen. Scores of fans patiently await the Swiss no. 1’s start at the Brisbane International, interested to see how he performs in 2014 after completing his most disappointing year in the last decade. Federer has played Nieminen on 13 previous occasions on the tour and is yet to drop more than a set against him.
The 2013 season has not been kind to Roger Federer. The former world no. 1 has had a year riddled with losses to the likes of Federico Delbonis, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Daniel Brands, which has surprised the vast majority of tennis fans and brought about questions of a potential retirement. The Swiss star also went 0-7 against Nadal, Djokovic and Murray in 2013, bringing into question whether he should even be considered a part of the ‘Big Four’. He ended his season on a higher note, as he managed to reach the finals in Basel, the semi-final in Paris and the World Tour Finals in London, giving fans hope for his possible improvement in 2014.
The 32-year-old Federer spent the majority of his off-season in an intense training camp in his home base of Dubai. He even made several significant changes to his camp as he decided to hire Stefan Edberg for a ‘minimum of 10 weeks’ beginning with the Australian Open and has also revealed that he will be testing a larger racquet (from 90 to 98 inches) here in Brisbane.
Finland’s Jakko Nieminen had an unremarkable year on the tour, where he reached the quarert-finals or better in six tournaments, making the finals of one of them (Dusseldorf). The wins lifted him from no. 70, where he started the year, to his current spot of no. 39 and compiled a 31-27 records overall today. He ended his season with a title win in a ATP Challengers event in his homecountry.
Dating back to their first encounter in 2002, Federer has compiled a 13-0 h2h record against Nieminen and will likely extend that lead further tomorrow evening. While that may be the expected scenario, it is important to note that this will mark Federer’s season-opening match and could be rusty early on. Two of their last four encounters have gone three sets and this could be another tough match for the Swiss as he attempts to find his rhythm early on in the season.
Prediction: Roger Federer in Three Sets