Ahead of big brother Bernard’s third round blockbuster with Roger Federer at Rod Laver Arena, 14-year-old Sara Tomic took to the courts at Melbourne Park to compete as a wildcard in her second Australian Open junior championships.
The highly-talented teenager, currently ranked junior world No. 217 and considered by those in the know to have as much potential as Bernard, took on Czech Gabriela Pantuckova in front of a raucous crowd on the outside courts.
Her 17-year-old opponent, with three years more experience and ranked over 150 places higher, was unlucky enough to run into Tomic in the early rounds of the lead-up tournament in Traralgon last week, where the young Aussie managed to topple her in a third set tiebreaker during a solid run to the quarterfinals.
As it was last week, Tomic’s powerful game came to the fore once again today, and to a standing ovation from the crowd, she overcame a slow start to wear down her opponent 2-6 6-2 6-4 after two hours and 15 minutes.
In a moment of déjà vu – although she lost last year on the day of Bernard’s fourth round capitulation to Federer – Sara hopes her efforts today are a better omen for her brother this time around.
“This time I’ve won,” she said with a mischievous grin.
Sara Tomic is ambitious and highly motivated, and she doesn’t take her often-stated goal of becoming the best player in the world lightly.
“That’s still the plan. And I’ll get there,” she said.
“I just want to get there so fast. I know I have to try and slow down. I know it’s all about time, dedication, hard work.”
For now, her next major focus is qualifying for the juniors at this year’s Wimbledon.
Those close to Tomic say her upside is in her power. Heading toward six foot (183cm) and possibly more by the time she stops growing, her camp says she will develop an even bigger serve to match those already powerful groundstrokes.
Tomic admitted today she looks up to another powerful player for inspiration.
“I idolise Serena (Williams),” she said. “I just absolutely love her.”
Obviously, balancing her tennis commitments and her education is paramount at such a tender age and in that regard, Tomic seems to understand her priorities well.
“I do distance education. My mum helps me and I have a teacher that comes every semester to see how I’m doing.”
“I’m very good,” she added. “I’m a straight-A student and I love working.”
Hopefully, both for the Tomics and the parochial crowd at Melbourne Park, Sara’s win today can create the momentum required to push Bernard over the line in arguably his greatest ever challenge.
Regardless of the outcome, Sara will be courtside tonight urging her brother on.
With a bit of luck, she’s hoping not to fall asleep during the match either, as she famously did last year.
“I had a 40-degree match that day!” she laughed.
Showing her natural maturity, Tomic revealed that she saw tonight as an opportunity for some valuable tennis education.
“I’m really looking forward to watching [Bernard] play. It’s amazing to watch your brother play one of the best all-time players ever … and learning from it. I’m just so proud of him.”
As far as her own immediate challenge, Tomic now moves through to a Grand Slam second round for the first time, where she faces German fourth seed Antonia Lottner.