03RD Jan 2009

Time to hang tough with the big boys

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

AAP

Australian tennis’s next great hope, Bernard Tomic, has been urged to ignore the hype and make the most of his senior debut at this week’s Brisbane International.

Pat Rafter and John Newcombe, who the teenaged Tomic wants to emulate as world No.1, have urged him to hang tough in what they tip as a baptism of fire this summer.

Seen as the player most likely to excite impatient Australian fans, the 16-year-old Gold Coaster has gained a wildcard for the Brisbane International and may receive similar help to play in Sydney and the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The 2008 Australian Open junior champion, Tomic has an ATP ranking of 763 and failed to win a wildcard into the Open last month.

Rafter predicted it wouldn’t be an easy transition for the Davis Cup squad member.

“He’s going to go through a couple of tough periods and tough years,” Rafter said.

“He’s got to learn to play against the big boys now and he’s been doing that and he’s been having some mixed results and you don’t want to expect too much of him too early.”

Rafter admitted the hype was unfair on the youngster but “unfortunately that’s the nature of the beast”.

Newcombe, who was integral in Lleyton Hewitt’s rise from the juniors on to the ATP tour, felt it was imperative Tomic, coached by his father John, kept a level head.

“It’s just not good to have that much hype because if you don’t start getting wins, then you can start losing your self-belief and losing your confidence in yourself and losing your desire to go out there,” said the former Davis Cup captain.

Newcombe said Tomic needed to strike immediately in Brisbane.

“This is the chance for him to get that experience, perhaps get a win or two and get some points,” he said.

“And you’ve got to get points to get your ranking down and only when you get your ranking down can you get into the tournaments to play around the world and learn what it’s all about.”

Newcombe said Tomic had to focus on developing bigger weapons in his game.

“I haven’t seen him play since Wimbledon this year but he’s grown quite tall now so he should be really concentrating on developing a bigger serve,” he said.

“One of his main assets is his court craft – he really reads the game well and plays the game well – the backhand is pretty good, his forehand could probably do with a bit of work.

“I would say keep your backhand as your rock and develop a much bigger serve and work on your forehand the next couple of years and make it into a weapon.”

Brisbane International organisers have also granted Brisbane juniors Isabella Holland, 17 on Friday, and Monica Wejnert, 16, wildcards as well as Brydan Klein, the 2007 Australian Open boys’ champion.

They will be hoping to avoid leading seeds such as Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic when the main draw in the 32-player events are announced on Saturday.

Brisbane International website

Latest Result

Italian Open, R64
Benoit Paire DEFEATED Bernard Tomic 2-1 (RET) see previous results