One step closer
By Darren Saligari
During the Australian Open, there was a lot of buzz around 15-year-old Bernard Tomic. This is nothing new – Bernard has been considered a top talent for a number of years now. But at Australian Open 2008 he delivered something big.
Tomic won the Australian Open boys’ singles final against an older and more experienced opponent in Chinese Taipei’s Tsung Hua Yang. Routinely firing down serves around the 215 km/h mark, Yang pushed Tomic to three sets, but the Australian came out on top 4-6 7-6(5) 6-0.
Winning the Australian Open boys’ singles final boosted Tomic’s confidence and provided him with a career highlight on his home turf.
Speaking to the waiting media after his big win, Tomic expressed his desire to be Australia’s youngest ever Davis Cup player. This may sound like a schoolboy dream, but if Tomic continues the form he has shown of late, it’s a one that might just come true.
“It’s a dream for any kid to play at the youngest age and I’m totally prepared for it,” says Tomic.
Last week, Tomic’s goal came a step closer to reality when the Queenslander received a phone call from Optus Australian Davis Cup team captain John Fitzgerald asking him if he would like to be the team’s hitting partner.
“Fitzy [John Fitzgerald] just said ‘it would be great for you to come and join the boys’ and I said ‘definitely yes’,” recalls Tomic.
“It was a good feeling, it was a lazy afternoon – I was on holiday – I was pretty surprised.”
Tomic had his first Futures win this week at the Wangara Kia Sorrento International in windy conditions over Briton Tom Rushby who is ranked 697 in the world, some 517 places higher than Tomic.
While Tomic wouldn’t admit that he was confident of defeating another higher ranked opponent, he believed that it was his solid preparation and ability to adapt to the difficult conditions that held him in good stead.
Tomic’s ability to prepare himself for big games and adapt to situations will come in handy when he joins the rest of the Optus Australian Davis Cup team in Townsville in April. It’s a big opportunity for the teenager and one that Fitzgerald believes will benefit Tomic’s development immeasurably.
“It’s just a great learning curve for a 15-year-old kid,” says Fitzgerald. “The big thing is to be involved in the environment and see what it means to the other guys to play for Australia.”
“[It's important for Tomic] to hang around with people like Lleyton Hewitt who’s got the best record Australia’s ever had in Davis Cup and see how important it is to Lleyton and how he applies himself – the professional manner in which he goes about his work every day.”
Despite his age, the importance of this opportunity is not lost on the 15 year old. “To have the experience of hitting with those other guys, it’ll be a good week practising. The main experience that I’m looking forward to is seeing how you build a team relationship.”
After the Davis Cup tie in Townsville, Tomic will head home to the Gold Coast before contesting a Challenger in Croatia and then it’s over to Italy for a junior tournament and then on to the French Open and Wimbledon junior tournaments. A hectic schedule.
This year, Tomic is playing a mix of juniors, Futures and Challenger tournaments. Next year he plans on playing more Challengers in an attempt to build his ranking. And, with a bit of luck, leave his hitting partner duties behind and claim a spot in the Optus Australian Davis Cup team.