Posts Tagged ‘djokovic’

Why Bernard Tomic is One to Watch

January 20, 2012

Bernard Tomic, the young Australian tennis star, won his third round match 4-6 7-6 7-6 2-6 6-3 at the Australian Open on Friday night in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena.  His opponent, the crafty Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, was a tough match up from the start – ‘it’s like playing myself in the mirror’ – but the Australian won through in 5 sets.

The play was evenly matched – total points won: Tomic 174, Dolgopolov 174 – but, thanks to a partisan crowd and stronger belief, it was Tomic who was able to win the critical points and pass relatively unscathed to the next on-court challenge.

He nows plays Roger Federer in the fourth round, being the first teenager to reach the fourth round of a slam since Marin Cilic in Melbourne in 2008; will he be the first teen to beat Federer since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005?  No matter what the outcome, certainly Tomic will hope his tennis career trajectory proceeds in a similar fashion to the latter teenager.

What is more, whether the Australian wins or loses, his performance will certainly give Australians hope that they will once again have a presence at the top of the men’s  tennis game.

Tomic is an unconventional player, mixing up pace with spin and direction like almost no other player – apart from, perhaps, Dolgopolov.  He has what experts like to call ‘an excellent tennis brain’, meaning despite his young age, he is intelligent and tactical on the court.

It is Tomic’s ease when he strikes the ball, however, which is most startling – when he is on form, his racquet appears to sweep away the ball with as simple and effortless a stroke as swatting a fly, yet the ball covers the court with astonishing power and speed.

His one-handed backhand is almost as fluid, with plenty of vicious slice to get his opponent down low.  As the past greats of the game must think when they see him play: ‘this is how tennis should be’.

Needless to say, there are echoes of Federer here, as Tomic himself highlights.  Following his win against Dolgopolov and looking forward to his match with Federer, he concurred that Federer was a great inspiration, and his matches are those ‘you really want to sit down and watch’.

Tomic has already played against Federer in a Davis Cup tie on grass in Sydney, a match which Federer won with relative ease.  But for Tomic to play his idol at his home grand slam event in front of what will doubtless be a super-charged 15,000-strong crowd is another step altogether.  It will be both a steep learning curve, but also a great chance to show the world he really is one to watch.

This is not to say Tomic is flaky, however.  Tomic showed his first hand on the world tennis stage in the summer of 2011 by progressing to the quarterfinal of the Wimbledon Championships, being beaten by the ultimate champion of the tournament, Novak Djokovic.  With this he moved up 87 places in the world rankings, to number 71.

However, in his last tour match of 2011 at the Paris Bercy Masters, Tomic faltered against Frenchman Nicholas Muhut in a round of qualifying, in front of a small crowd and on what can only be described as a ‘peripheral’ court.  No television, no Australian crowd, no extended support group – just an opponent, who he should beat, across the net.

Despite showing he had the skills to outmanouvre the Frenchman from all quarters, his heart did not seem in it, as he shook his head after every errand shot from his racquet and every winner from his opponent’s.  To add insult to injury, his somewhat strong-willed father, John Tomic, walked out after the youngster was broken in just the first few games.

It just shows was surroundings can do for a player – or, rather, for that player’s support.  Fast forward to Melbourne, only two months later, and Tomic is the darling of the first grand slam of the year.  Same surface, same player, totally different response to adversity.

If Tomic is to succeed in the upper echelons of the game, he needs to be able to apply the same sort of strength as he has in Melbourne to matches like those in Bercy – learning to win in minor tournaments, and in early rounds, when only a few hundred people are watching.  Then, perhaps, Tomic will become the darling of tennis the world over.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in Madrid: A War of Attrition Between Two Warriors

May 17, 2009

I do not use the above title loosely.

Yes, we are all aware that Rafael Nadal has a virility only present in the fiercest and most determined of men. Yet to use this noun for Novak Djokovic is something else altogether.  

The first of the Madrid Masters 1000 semifinals was always going to be special. Nadal and Djokovic have already met in the past two clay court masters events finals this year; and each time, despite valiant efforts from Djokovic, Nadal ultimately dominated the meetings.  

This time, however, a change was in the air. 

From Nadal’s discontent prior to the start of the tournament to Djokovic riding high from his hometown win at last week’s Serbian Open, not to mention the recent previous Masters events meetings and their results, tensions were running underground, ready to bubble over at the first hint of an important battle.  

And so a battle it became.  As soon as Djokovic broke Nadal’s service game at the very start of the first set to go 3-0 up, one knew that we were in for a match of epic proportions. 

Shades of the Hamburg Masters Semifinal in 2008, if you will. Add to the mix the clear bias of the 12,000 strong Madrid crowd and this match turned into something else altogether.

Tennis out of this world. Shot after shot. Rally after rally after sustained rally. Each and every exchange lasted for an average of over ten shots. Some games continued for 15 minutes. The second set lasted 97 minutes alone. Match points saved in the most sensational of fashions.  

Giant proportions for a great match with gargantuan meaning.  

Bringing out the very best in each other, the shots were equalled and surpassed as time went on, as legs cramped and hearts pounded and souls ached. 

Rare displays on emotions punctuated Nadal’s increasing number of unforced errors; Djokovic, ever the showman, continued to illustrate his torment and exhaustion. The result could only be separated in a final set tiebreak, the ultimate showdown.  

Over 4 hours. 3-6, 7-6, 7-6; 11-9 in the final tiebreak. Winner: Nadal.  

Who would have thought otherwise??  

There hasn’t been much excitement or drama from the matches played in Madrid this week. The Box has been somewhat subdued. However perhaps this first epic in the new Caja Magica will bring good luck for the tournament forthwith.   

What to expect from tomorrow’s final?  Who knows.  Knowing Nadal, he won’t be tired at all.  What does this mean for the fast-approaching French Open?  In the broad scheme of things, probably not that much. 

Phillipe Chatrier court, best of 5 sets and 7 matches over 2 weeks still concocts a lethal combination for all of Nadal’s brave opponents. 

Nevertheless it is true to say that certainly, Nadal’s autocracy of his clay kingdom just got a lot more interesting.

(Published on Bleacher Report; 16th May 2009)