Tomic outfoxes foe to advance at the Open
Bernard Tomic confessed to deliberately playing dead while drawing inspiration from Lleyton Hewitt to reach the Australian Open second round with a mighty comeback win on Monday.
The boom teenager defied all odds, predictions and soaring mercury to rally from two sets down to oust Spanish ironman and 2009 semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco 4-6 6-7 (7-3) 6-4 6-2 7-5 in four hours and 11 minutes.
Tomic’s reward for winning his longest-ever match is a clash on Wednesday with American Sam Querrey – and a possible fourth-round showdown with 16-times grand slam champion Roger Federer.
The 19-year-old Wimbledon quarter-finalist looked down and out after falling behind two sets to love.
But backing his vastly-improved fitness, Tomic admitted to foxing his seasoned opponent early in the third set.
“I had a feeling he knew I was going to go away. I eased off and seemed (like) I didn’t care,” Tomic said.
“He thought he was going to win that third set and, when the right time came, I broke him.
“I knew if I lifted my game early, he would have lifted as well and he wouldn’t have let go.
“I pretended a little bit in the first few games in that third set to not be there as mentally, but in a way to still be there.”
Verdasco, who cried ill after the match, said it was easy for Tomic to claim such tactics in victory.
But nothing could detract from Tomic’s day in the sun as he carried the hopes of a nation as Australian No.1 at Melbourne Park for the first time.
“It’s hard, but I’m learning to deal with it. I’m having fun,” he said.
“Today wasn’t fun. It was torture. I don’t know how I won, but I’m the happiest person alive.”
Darren Cahill, Verdasco’s former coach and ex-mentor of Hewitt and Andre Agassi, summed up the prevailing mood after Tomic silenced his doubters.
“Stunning effort from Bernie. Gave him no chance after dropping a tough 1st set, let alone going down 2 sets. Well done young fella!” Cahill tweeted.
As a wide-eyed, ambitious 12-year-old, Tomic famously declared he wanted the serve of Goran Ivanisevic, the mind of Pete Sampras, the groundstrokes of Federer and the heart of Hewitt.
On Monday, after displaying Hewitt’s fighting qualities, the world No.38 also admitted to drawing on his younger days growing up in Queensland watching Australia’s former world No.1 snatching so many victories from the jaws of defeat.
“(He) did the impossible, turned around a match in this situation,” Tomic said.
“You learn from a player that’s been No.1 in the world. Any player that has been No.1 in the world, you can pick up the best info from them.
“Lleyton never gives up. That’s one of the reasons he got to No.1.
“I had it in me today. I played a good tennis match and believed in myself as much as I could. That got me through it.”
Tomic had requested a day-time encounter for his meeting up with “one of the fittest players in the world”, believing a night match in heavier conditions would play into the hands of the claycourt specialist.
But as the temperate rose to the mid-30s, Tomic began to regret his decision.
“Silly me,” he said.
“I didn’t know that the heat was going to be like this.
“It’s the first day in the last few months where it’s actually been this hot. I chose the wrong time to play. But lucky I won.
“Had I not done that fitness the last two, three months, there’s no way mentally you can be out there in that heat and turn around in a match like that and win.
“It was all fitness, the way I’ve been preparing the last few months. It’s all paid off.”
Snapshot of day one of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Monday:
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Bernard Tomic – the 19-year-old home hope thrilled fans at Rod Laver Arena with a spirited fightback to advance to the second round with a 4-6 6-7 (7-3) 6-4 6-2 7-5 win over 2009 semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco.
KEY MOMENT: Greg Jones’s promising grand slam debut turned to mud after 2011 quarter-finalist Alexander Dolgopolov took a toilet break after the second set to dump the Aussie out of the tournament with a 1-6 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-1 comeback win.
STAT OF THE DAY: A first-day Open record 45,361 fans flocked to Melbourne Park, eclipsing the previous mark of 42,426 set in 2009.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Today wasn’t fun. It was torture. I don’t know how I won, but I’m the happiest person alive.” – Tomic after winning the longest match of his career, a four-hour, 11-minute thriller.
TOURNAMENT SUMMARY: Tomic raises Australian hopes as grand slam champions Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro lead the bulk of the men’s seeds into the second round, while defending champion Kim Clijsters, last year’s runner-up Li Na and world No.3 Victoria Azarenka advance in the women’s event.© AAP 2013
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