x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tomic hoping to turn up the heat on 'cool guy' Djokovic

The Australian teenager and apprentice meets the world No 2 today with a Wimbledon semi-final spot at stake.

Bernard Tomic, the Australian teenager, hopes the apprentice can topple the master when he meets Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon quarter-finals today.

Djokovic, the world No 2 and star man so far in 2011 with just one loss from 46 matches, has taken 18-year-old Tomic under his wing and recruited him as a regular practice partner.

Tomic, the fourth youngest player to reach the last eight at Wimbledon, is still making his way on the tour after a rocky start that saw him suspended by the International Tennis Federation for walking off court during a match, and also have a high-profile falling out with the then Australian No 1 Lleyton Hewitt.

The influence of Djokovic, who gave a reminder of his younger, fiery but seemingly forgotten self when he threw his racket while playing Marcos Baghdatis on Saturday, seems to have been good for Tomic, though.

And the youngster from Australia's Gold Coast admits he holds the Serbian in great esteem.

"Novak is a champion," Tomic said. "He's obviously won grand slams before.

"My relationship's really good with him. I've hit with him a lot of times. He's a cool guy. One of the nicest guys on the tour.

"I think he has respect for me. I've got a much bigger respect for him, obviously, being in the top three for so long and now being close to becoming number one.

"To play against a guy like him that's number two in the world, it doesn't really get better than that."

Tomic plays as an Australian but was born in Germany to Croatian and Bosnian parents.

He moved to Australia as a two-year-old when his father, John, who is now his coach, got a job as a taxi driver in the town of Southport, Queensland.

His background dictates he is able to communicate with Djokovic in Serbo-Croatian and, having been approached by Djokovic about being his hitting partner ahead of an exhibition match in Kooyong in Melbourne, their relationship has flourished.

"Ever since that day he's always said good things about me," Tomic said. "I've hit with him at least a dozen times now. I think he likes having me around."

Tomic won the Kooyong exhibition against Djokovic - although he is quick to credit the weather's role in that success - and he is well aware of the size of the task ahead of him, especially as he admits to getting nowhere close to his mentor on the practice court.

"It's tough because even in practice when I play against Novak I can't execute my shots because he's got one of the best returns in the world," Tomic said.