x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bernard Tomic living up to hype

The Australian teenager proves Novak Djokovic, the world No 2, right with his giant-killing form.

The talented Bernard Tomic, only 18 years old, is determined to spearhead a revival of Australian tennis in the coming years.
The talented Bernard Tomic, only 18 years old, is determined to spearhead a revival of Australian tennis in the coming years.

There was a moment when Bernard Tomic did not think he would get past the first round of qualifying for Wimbledon, much less into the second week of the tournament.

Now he is the youngest player in 21 years to reach the fourth round at the All England Club.

Tomic, who will face Xavier Malisse today, is the first 18 year old since Michael Chang and Goran Ivanisevic in 1990 to reach the second week at Wimbledon.

His victory over Robin Soderling on Saturday was the biggest upset of the men's tournament so far and counts as a watershed moment for the player hailed as the future of Australian tennis.

"Most definitely the best achievement that I've done so far," said Tomic, who will surpass Lleyton Hewitt as the highest-ranked Australian player. "I'll always remember this is the first time I've really done well at a grand slam."

Tomic's performance has not been a surprise to everyone. He has been honing his skills with Novak Djokovic lately, and the second-ranked Serb predicted last week that Tomic could pull off a couple of upsets.

"He can be a surprise of the tournament," Djokovic said after Tomic's first-round win. "I think he's one of the most talented young players out there. He's still young. There's still a long way to go for him, but he has the game to beat some really big players."

Tomic almost did not make it to Wimbledon at all.

He was nearly eliminated in the first round of qualifying by Sebastien Rieschick, of Germany, saving two break points at 4-4 in the deciding set - one with a fluke shot he said hit the rubber band on his racket. In the second round at Wimbledon, he rallied from two sets down to beat Igor Andreev in a match that started on Thursday and finished on Friday.

Now he will move past Hewitt, who has been the top Australian since March 2000. Hewitt, the former Wimbledon champion, has struggled with injuries lately and lost to Soderling in the second round on Thursday after wasting a two-set lead.

"Hopefully Australian tennis can rise," Tomic said. "I think now I can get a lot of young kids saying, 'I want to play like him and get to the top 100 and help out Australia'. I think it will all change in the next few years. We have a lot of juniors coming up. It's just a matter of time."

Tomic could face Djokovic in the quarter-finals, although he first has to get past Malisse today.

"I'd love to win another round," Tomic said. "I'm going to have to prepare mentally for it and not just backing off in the fourth round. I think I can win. I've got to go out there and believe like I did [against Soderling]."