I, like most Australian tennis fans, have been keenly watching the developments of Bernard Tomic since the young Aussie started making headlines. However most of these headlines weren’t just for his prodigious talent, he did win the Orange Bowl Under 12s, 14s and 16s, but for some pretty outlandish off court behaviour.
It was a young Tomic that gloated he would become world number one after winning the Under 16s Orange Bowl, he walked off a court when trailing Marinko Matosevic 2-6 1-3 at an ITF event in Australia in 2008 and he has been criticised for not giving his all in games and in preparation and has had a public feud with Lleyton Hewitt.
Australia is desperate for our next big thing in tennis. Once the powerhouse of international tennis, with the names of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court, Lew Hoad, Evonne Goolagong Cawley Neale Fraser, John Newcombe and many more leading Australia to decades of success from the 50s to 70s. But the strength of Australian tennis has waned, especially in the last decade.
Yes Australia has had grand slam champions and world number ones but the cupboard has been pretty bare. Hewitt was the last Aussie man to win a grand slam tournament in 2001 at Wimbledon and no Aussie male has won the Australian Open since Mark Edmonson surprised John Newcombe in 1978. Sam Stosur’s US Open win is flying the flag for Australian tennis but before that win the last woman to lift a major trophy was Goolagong Cawley when she won Wimbledon in 1980.
The pressure is well and truly on Tomic but I can’t decide whether the German-born 19-year-old can be the champion the sport mad Aussies crave.
2011 has been a break out year from Tomic. It started at the Australian Open when Bernard was by no means disgraced by then world number one Rafael Nadal. Although going down to Rafa in straight sets in their third round clash, after a straight sets victory over Feliciano Lopez in the previous round, Tomic should have won the second set after going up two early breaks. Tomic lost that set 7-5 then fell away in the third losing 2-6 5-7 3-6.
After that loss Tomic went back to the challenger circuit didn’t really feature on the ATP tour until his life changing week at Wimbledon. Tomic had to qualify and after winning his three qualifying matches he defeated former world number three Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets. Tomic then came from two sets to love down to defeat Igor Andreev before the recording his biggest win of his career taking down world number five Robin Soderling in straight sets. He backed that victory up with another straight set victory this time over Xavier Malisse to be the youngest player to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals since Boris Becker in 1986. Bernie’s opponent was Novak Djokovic and the youngster was far from disgraced against the hottest man in world tennis and eventual champion pushing the Serb to four sets losing 5-7 in the fourth.
Tomic has needed to and has played much more regularly on the ATP tour since Wimbledon and has had some positive results. He defeated top 20 player Stanislas Wawrinka in the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland and pushed Roger Federer in the reverse singles. He also recorded his second win over Top 10 opponents defeating Mardy Fish in Shanghai and just went down to another Top 10 player Gael Monfils, and eventual champion, in three tight sets last week in Stockholm.
However despite all the positives this year has brought, his ranking has risen 166 places to 42, Tomic’s game style is worrying and I can’t decide whether I love it or loathe it. I liken it to tiddlywinks tennis, as he just pushes the ball around the court rather than hitting it. Tomic thinks about tennis more than most modern day players, which is refreshing, and is competent at net. He labels his slice backhand as his favourite, again unusual when compared to his power hitting peers. Tomic can easily improve his ranking but he still needs to make improvements in his game. His serve needs work, especially pace wise to give him some more free points but it is his attitude that needs to improve the most.
In some of his recent losses he has really fallen away in matches. Against Alexandr Dolgopolov in Shanghai Tomic lost 12 of the last 13 games against the Ukranian after winning the first set 7-5. A week earlier in Tokyo Tomic took the first set of Mardy Fish before falling away to lose 7-6(5) 4-6 1-6. These results were just over a month after a dismal 1-6 0-6 2-6 loss to Marin Cilic loss in the second round of the US Open.
Jack Reader, the Australian coach of Dolgopolov was critical of Tomic’s performance. ”Bernie, the last two games he didn’t look like he really tried,” he said. ”I mean, ‘Sasha’ played well the last two sets, but what do you say?” When asked if Tomic gave up, ”I don’t know if I’d say that … he didn’t see any reason to keep trying, I suppose is may be a better way to put it”.
Hopefully Tomic learns from this breakthrough season and can become the champion the Australian public wants him to be, but Tomic needs to find consistent tennis first. An improvement in his ability to stay in tough matches and some more mental toughness could see the nineteen year old soar.