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

in Melbourne.

”I know him, he’s very young. He has very good potential to be

in the top positions in the future,” Nadal said.