The Monte Carlo Masters in mid-April is the probable where and when of Bernard Tomic’s tournament return, but it may be the how that proves to be most significant, with Tomic’s physiotherapist predicting he will eventually move up to 30 per cent more freely than before January’s pair of hip surgeries.
Having managed Lleyton Hewitt’s successful rehabilitation from twin hip operations, performed 17 months apart in 2008 and 2010, Ivan Gutierrez is overseeing Tomic’s recovery from procedures on his left and then right hip in the week after he controversially retired from his Australian Open first round against Rafael Nadal.
The surgeries corrected a lifelong structural problem by reshaping the head of the 21-year-old’s femur, or thigh bone, to allow more range of movement, and also repaired labrum and ligament tears. Gutierrez said world No.5 Juan Martin del Potro suffered from a similar issue that tended to tighten and worsen with age.
Some can be managed; Tomic’s ultimately could not.
”For having had bilateral hip surgery, he’s doing very well, a little bit better than I thought he would at this time,” said Gutierrez, the Australian Open’s head physio, who also has extensive AFL experience.
”All the time that we’ve been working together he’s been committed to the treatment, and he knows the importance of it because all his career is just going to hinge on that, and hopefully he will be back soon and be able to play without pain, and regain more flexibility than he used to have.
”He’s been very restricted, because tennis being a flexion, or bent-over type of a sport, and him being so tall, his limitations were significant, especially playing on grass and hard courts. It forced him to bend a little bit more than he had to, hence irritating the hip joints a little bit more than you normally would.
”Now he has much more rotation both ways – internal and external – so he’ll be able to displace and change direction a little bit better, so I think he’ll be much more comfortable with his movement on court … I’m expecting between 20 to 30 per cent on what he had. We’re hoping for 30, but 20 would be great.”
Tomic has been swimming and cycling, and recently resumed hitting balls from a largely stationary position. A Monte Carlo comeback suits the time frame, 12 weeks post-operative, and clay the most suitably benign surface.
Hewitt, too, has been physically compromised in recent times, having withdrawn with a shoulder injury one set into his all-Australian clash with Marinko Matosevic last week at Delray Beach.
Hewitt will rest and continue with strengthening exercises ahead of an exhibition next Monday in Hong Kong, with Indian Wells and Miami to follow.
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