Tomic wins admirers despite defeat
As Bernard Tomic’s teenage joyride through the Australian Open was ended by childhood hero Roger Federer, there were echoes of another performance on centre court eight years before.
Lleyton Hewitt, then at the height of his powers, was pushed hard by a teenage upstart in a 2004 third round match at Melbourne Park.
The youngster had a blistering forehand, and a bit of swagger about him.
Anyone who’d paid close attention knew they’d seen a future grand slam winner.
Eventually Hewitt won in straight sets – the first two in tough tie-breaks – and the scoreline flattered the Australian.
The young Rafael Nadal left vanquished.
But just 16 months later, Nadal was a grand slam winner.
By the end of that year, the Spaniard was world No.2.
Tomic has shown big-match temperament, ticker and a tantalising glimpse of what might be.
A memorable five-set triumph when he climbed off the canvas against Fernando Verdasco, a win over seasoned pro Sam Querrey, and a superb victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov in one of the matches of the tournament showcased all that’s good about the 19-year-old.
Now Tomic has matched motors with Federer – albeit for the first set of his 6-4 6-2 6-2 loss on Sunday night before perhaps the greatest player the game has seen found top-speed in his steamroller.
Australia now knows Tomic much better than a week ago, and it likes what it sees.
In his third round match against Dolgopolov, it was hard to remember a more electrifying atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena in recent memory.
While the rarefied quality of the game on show had a lot to do with it, it was sparked by the excitement surrounding Tomic’s emergence.
He’s got the game, he’s got the glamour sitting in his players’ box, he’s got the crowd support, he’s got an X-factor.
Where current world No.38 Tomic goes from here is up to him.
On what we’ve seen in the past week, that would appear to be upwards. Quickly.
Wherever he goes, Australia appears buckled up for the ride.