Bernard Tomic has not been short of a statement or two this week. That Roger Federer might not make the third round, that he himself could be in the top 10 by the end of the year … Australia’s great hope is in a confident mood these days.
But it’s the statements on the court that count. And Tomic lived up to his words with an at-times nervy, but ultimately encouraging 6-7(4) 7-5 7-6(3) 7-6(8) win over German qualifier Daniel Brands to reach the third round.
“Yeah, very pleased with myself,” Tomic said. “Daniel played really, really well. I was surprised how he played today. I’m just happy I won in the end because he wasn’t playing like his ranking. He was playing better than that.”
Tomic, as is his wont, looked so casual on Rod Laver Arena that he could well have been on St Kilda beach. Sporting a cap for the heat, but at an unfathomable angle, he soon discovered that Brands was no walkover.
The German may be ranked outside the top 100, but he was also on a four-match win streak, and had reached the Doha quarterfinals in the first week of the season. A player running hot is precisely what a cat and mouse aficionado such as Tomic can struggle with. They wait and wait for their moment, and find that they’re suddenly back in the locker room.
Brands, whose biggest distinction was his favouring of net play, sneaked the first set on a tie-break, and always looked the more dangerous as Tomic struggled to find his range in the overpowering conditions, with the Melbourne afternoon reaching a sweltering 40 degrees.
“I didn’t think he could serve like this,” Tomic said. “I think he served over 20 aces the whole match. Serving amazing. I couldn’t read it at all.”
But at 5-5 in the second set, Tomic suddenly found his focus. Chasing down a volley in a way that you see Andy Murray do all the time, the Australian 20-year-old found a forehand passing shot to earn the first break of the match. His reaction, an emphatic fist pump to the crowd and his team, said it all.
“I remember the point,” Tomic said. “It was a very good move by me. I think he came to the net and drop shotted me. I managed to angle it and covered the whole court to pass him down the line. That showed really that I have improved my movement. What a point it was, because that turned around the match for my confidence as well.”
The next two sets were razor-thin, neither player managing to get a foothold on the other’s serve. But it was confidence that got Tomic through, the Australian finding what he needed to make good in two consecutive tie-breaks.
“I felt like I had not a lot of chances today,” Tomic said. “When I got my chance, I tried to do as much as I could. It worked out for me in the end. But I only got a few, and I was lucky to get them.”
Two hours and 55 minutes later, Tomic the not-Tank engine lives on in Melbourne. And he is ready for what’s next. A shot at a second-straight Australian Open fourth round against the winner of Thursday’s night’s clash between Roger Federer and Nikolay Davydenko.
“I’m confident,” he said. “I’m going to get ready as much as I can to play any of those two players. All I can do is try to win.”
Last Australian standing, yes. But talk about living up to expectation.
“The support down here is huge,” Tomic said. “I’m going to need every bit of it on Saturday night.
"I had a few flaws in my game, and I improved that. I improved my serve a lot and my fitness. That’s why I think I’m playing good tennis on the court. Hopefully I can keep it up, especially next round."