Former Australian No. 1 Bernard Tomic will look to make a triumphant return to tennis competition at the Sony Open when he faces Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen in the opening round in Miami. The 22-year-old has been sidelined since January, as he underwent surgery on both his hips, making this his first tournament since the Australian Open. Tomic leads the head-to-head series against Nieminen 1-0, with a victory last year in Sydney.
Bernard Tomic intended to go into the 2014 season and finally meet the lofty expectations set for him by his fellow countrymen, yet the former top ranked Australian is now overshadowed by higher ranked Lleyton Hewitt, Matthew Ebden and Marinko Matosevic. Much of the damage was through no fault of his own, as he had surgery to his left hip following a first round retirement to Rafael Nadal, and then an operation on his right hip to reshape the head of his thigh bone. While the presumed return date was tentatively set for April at the Monte Carlo Masters, it appears Tomic feels fit enough to compete at this event almost an entire month ahead of schedule.
The world No. 74 is faced with a tough draw, as he will begin his campaign against the tricky Nieminen before a potential clash with Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who has been white hot throughout the 2014 season.
Former world No. 13 Jarkko Nieminen holds a 9-7 record this season, with his best performances taking place in Montpellier, where he reached the semi-final round before losing to the eventual champion, Gael Monfils. He is coming off a third round exit to Roberto Bautista Agut last week at Indian Wells and will be looking for a strong showing in Miami this week, starting with his opener against Tomic. He is currently defending third round points at the Sony Open, with his best performance at the event being a fourth round exit in 2007.
This is the second time Tomic and Nieminen meet on the professional tour, with the Australian earning the 6-7(6) 6-4 6-2 victory last year in Sydney. Nieminen will now have an opportunity to avenge that loss and even up the series if he can topple a rusty Tomic in the opening round in Miami. The Australian is hardly the favourite heading into the contest, considering he has not taken part in a professional contest since January and is coming off double hip surgery, yet it will be interesting to see how he handles his first match back.
Prediction: Jarkko Nieminen in Three Sets