Stosur, teenager Tomic give Australia tennis hope
Teenager Bernard Tomic is developing a reputation for brashness
on his way to becoming Australia’s next big hope in tennis. He’s
going to need it.
The wild-card entry beat No. 31 Feliciano Lopez on Thursday in
his second upset of the Australian Open, setting up a third-round
match against Rafael Nadal.
”I’ve got nothing to lose,” said Tomic, admitting to some
nerves at playing the Spanish superstar for the first time. ”So
win or lose, I’m going to take this opportunity to play at night
against the world No. 1, playing not to lose, playing to win.”
Tomic, the youngest player in the men’s draw at 18 years, 3
months, is the last man standing among six Australians who started
the tournament. He beat Lopez 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3 and after
defeating Jeremy Chardy of France in three sets in the first
In reality, there’s no doubt that Samatha Stosur has a better
chance of winning Australia its first Grand Slam title since
Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon in 2002. It’s been even longer for
women – Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.
”I know it’s been a long time. I’d love to be that person to
break that drought,” the fifth-seeded Stosur said. ”At the end of
the day, I’ve got to play good matches, and I’ve got to do seven of
them to win the tournament.”
Her easy 6-3, 6-2 win Thursday over Russia’s Eva Dushevina makes
it two down. In a field considered wide open, Stosur, the 2010
French Open runner-up, may have to beat No. 2-seeded Vera Zvonareva
and an in-form Kim Clijsters to reach the final.
Tomic and Stosur are the last Australians left at Melbourne Park
following Alicia Molik’s loss to Nadia Petrova on Thursday.
It’s certainly been quite a dry spell for Australian tennis.
The 29-year-old Hewitt has been carrying the flag since Patrick
Rafter retired in 2002. The Wimbledon crown 8 1/2 years ago helped
him keep the No. 1 ranking, but was also the last time an
Australian has held the top spot. Hewitt is now the only Australian
man in the top 100, and he’s set to drop significantly from his
current spot at 54 after losing this week in the first round – a
premature end to his 15th Australian Open.
On the women’s side, Stosur became the first Australian to crack
the top five in a quarter-century and reached the French Open final
last year – as close as any Australian woman has been to a Grand
Slam trophy since Goolagong Cawley in 1980.
It’s a far cry from Australia’s golden era in the 1960s and
’70s, when Margaret Smith Court completed a calendar Grand Slam on
her way to a still-unmatched 24 major titles, and Rod Laver won two
his two calendar year Grand Slams – something no player has
achieved since. Nadal will come closest if he wins here, holding
all four major titles at one time, though not in the same year.
Ken Rosewall’s eight Grand Slam singles titles and Goolagong
Cawley’s seven helped keep their nation among the top echelon of
the sport. Pat Cash’s Wimbledon title in 1987 and Rafter’s two U.S.
Open victories in 1997-98 kept things going.
But with Hewitt’s career winding down, Australian officials and
fans are looking for the next big thing.
Tomic’s wild-card entry for this Open generated some raised
eyebrows after he shunned the grueling qualifying playoffs. Todd
Woodbridge, Tennis Australia’s head of men’s tennis, said Tomic had
done just enough in the Sydney International to justify the wild
Tomic, who was the youngest winner of the boys’ singles title in
2008 at 15 years, 3 months, said he is getting stronger and fitter
with every match, and that he has a knack for spotting his rival’s
weaknesses and surprising them with unusual shots.
Asked Thursday about Nadal’s game, Tomic gave a big sigh.
”There’s not much weaknesses,” he said. ”I don’t think he’ll
like my game. I think he’ll like the players that give him a lot of
time, a lot of rally shots. I think the way I mix it up, he’s not
going to like, but who knows?”
Tomic said he has the freedom to play to win.
”I can hit the ball hard, but I don’t do it a lot of the
time,” he said. ”That’s sort of not my game … I like to play
against players, make them miss, sort of thing. I got in the habit
when I was playing young playing funky shots. It sort of pays off
Asked about Tomic, Nadal was politely respectful, then said his
preparation for the match would include a bit of practice, a rest
at his hotel and maybe a trip to a local aquarium he likes to visit
”I know him, he’s very young. He has very good potential to be
in the top positions in the future,” Nadal said.