Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tomic hopes practice makes perfect

Updated June 28, 2011 12:31:00

Australian teenage sensation Bernard Tomic admits he is praying his Wimbledon quarter-final clash against Novak Djokovic does not go the same way as one of their recent practice sessions.

Tomic, 18, has become one of the stand-out stories at the All England Club after claiming a host of impressive scalps including world number five Robin Soderling and 29th seed Nikolay Davydenko, en route to becoming the youngest male quarter-finalist for 25 years.

Only Boris Becker, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg have made the last eight at a younger age than Tomic, who demolished Belgium's Xavier Malisse 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round on Monday to become the first qualifier to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals since Vladimir Voltchkov in 2000.

Now Tomic, ranked 158th in the world, faces Australian Open champion Djokovic for a place in the semi-finals and the teenager knows from bitter experience just how hard it will be to shock the second seed.

Tomic has practised with Djokovic regularly since the pair met an exhibition match in the Melbourne suburb of Kooyong in 2010 and he admits the Serb thrashed him in one-set match on the training court before Wimbledon.

"I did hit with him before the tournament, we played a set. He destroyed me," Tomic said.

"Things are not looking good for me, but hopefully he destroyed me then and not on Wednesday.

"It's tough, because even in practice when I play against Novak, I can't execute my shots because he's got one of the best returns in the world.

"He's got an unbelievable backhand. If I can execute my shots and he doesn't return as good on that day, which could be impossible because his return is unbelievable, then maybe I'll have a chance.

"We'll know from the first returns he hits."

Off-court buddies

Tomic, who was born in Germany to Croatian and Bosnian parents, has become firm friends with Djokovic as a result of their practice sessions.

But the Australian has never played Djokovic in an ATP Tour match and he readily admits it will need the performance of a lifetime to beat the world number two, whose remarkable run of 43 successive wins was only ended by Roger Federer at the French Open recently.

"Novak's a champion. He's obviously won grand slams before. My relationship's really good with him," Tomic said.

"I've hit with him a lot of times. He's a cool guy. One of the nicest guys out there on the tour.

"I think he has a respect for me but I've got a much bigger respect for him because he's played at that big level the last five years.

"What a match it's going to be, to play against a guy like him that's two in the world, it doesn't get really better than that."

Tomic has long been earmarked as one of the sport's rising stars after winning the Australian and US Open junior titles.

He struggled to live up to his potential for a while and nearly didn't make it to Wimbledon after coming within five points of losing his first match in the qualifying event.

Yet now he is one win away from a potential dream meeting with his idol Roger Federer in the semi-finals.

"I looked up to Roger when he won his first Wimbledon here and beat (Mark) Philippoussis. Ever since that, the love of the game's always been there," Tomic said.

Even if Tomic's fairytale run ends in the last eight, he has enjoyed the best two weeks of his life and is already planning how to celebrate.

"I still go to the beach and barbecues, that's for sure. Now I'm planning more of that!" he said.


Tags: sport, tennis, united-kingdom, england

First posted June 28, 2011 12:15:00

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