Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Advantage Tomic ahead of Verdasco opener

Updated January 15, 2012 20:23:18

It is advantage Bernard Tomic after the straight-shooting teenager was handed a high noon showdown with Fernando Verdasco on day one of the Australian Open.

The midday schedule for the marquee centre-court match-up was a double bonus for Tomic as he carries Australian hopes on Monday.

Apart from complaining two years ago about being asked to hit the court past his bed time, the Wimbledon quarter-finalist believes his best chance of combating Verdasco's firepower lay in the heat of the day.

Verdasco famously traded blows with Rafael Nadal for more than five hours in an epic night-time semi-final at Melbourne Park three years ago.

"If I played him at night, it would be much slower. I think he likes it slow," Tomic said on Sunday.

"To play him during the day, where it's a little bit quicker and a little bit more air can get in, I think it's better for me."

With wins last week over top-10 stars Tomas Berdych and Mardy Fish and grand slam semi-finalist Gael Monfils, the newly-crowned Kooyong Classic champion enters the Open brimming with belief.

"To have those matches under my belt, to win them all is great," Tomic said.

"I know I played them all in three sets. It's better to win in three. I played long matches, longer hours. I'm fit.

"Confidence is key before a tournament like this, to play a player like Fernando. I think I have the right confidence.

"I have a good chance, the way I'm playing, to beat him."

Tomic quite rightly believes a lot has changed since Verdasco routed him 6-4, 6-2 in their only previous meeting in Brisbane three years ago.

"I was 16," he said. "That was when he was on his run, playing well.

"The last six months he hasn't really done much. I think it's a good time to play him."

Such fighting words may stir Verdasco into action, but the Spaniard did have a poor 2011 on hard courts, claiming just one top-20 scalp as his ranking slid from number nine to 24th in the world.

"Fernando's got one of the best forehands (but) if you keep the ball to his backhand corner, he's not going to hurt you," Tomic said.

"That's what I'm going to do tomorrow."

The great irony is that, despite his hot form and the fact he is undoubtedly on the up and up, Tomic faces his own rankings dip if he loses to the 22nd seed.

The world number 37 has a bundle of points to defend after reaching the third round last year.

Should he beat Verdasco, though, Tomic would be strongly favoured to outclass American Sam Querrey or French wildcard Kenny De Schepper in the second round to at least match his 2011 effort.

With Lleyton Hewitt slumping to world number 182 after his injury-marred 2011, Tomic will arrive at Melbourne Park for the first time as Australian number one.

Not that Hewitt is too bothered as he embarks on his 16th consecutive Open campaign.

The 2005 runner-up said not carrying any great expectations had not altered his approach to his home slam.

"You still go in, focus on your first-round match just like anything else, try and prepare as well as possible. I think I've done that," Hewitt said ahead of his first-round meeting on Tuesday with young German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

Australia's women's title contender Samantha Stosur also plays her opener on Tuesday, against Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

But Ashleigh Barty, Olivia Rogowska, Casey Dellacqua, Greg Jones, Ben Mitchell and Anastasia Rodionova, who takes on world number one Caroline Wozniacki, are all up on Monday.


Tags: australian-open, tennis, other-sports, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 15, 2012 20:23:18

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