|A nation is behind Tomic as he faces Roger Federer for a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals [GALLO/GETTY]|
Bernard Tomic has tranformed from bad-boy to pin-up of Australian tennis but the Gold Coast teenager must ensure his ego does not outstrip his achievements, says former Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald.
The 19-year-old defeated fellow rising talent Alexandr Dolgopolov under the bright lights of Rod Laver Arena on Friday
and has taken the prime-time slot again for his Australian Open fourth-round match against Roger Federer.
Tomic has not wanted for confidence in his rapid rise to the top 50, and declared he should be ready to win a grand slam within two years after his brilliant quarter-final run at Wimbledon last year.
Fitzgerald said the Queenslander was a guaranteed top 10 player and an exciting prospect for Australians who have waited anxiously for a male player to take the mantle from ageing two-time grand slam winner Lleyton Hewitt.
But players initially puzzled by Tomic’s unorthodox style, a dizzying array of slice, topspin and changes of pace, would quickly work him out.
“He’s just going through that maturing process of a young player learning his craft, one that’s going to be a good player and all of these matches are a new experience,” Fitzgerald said in an interview at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
“It’s a different ball that (the players) are getting and he’s a little bit unique in that respect and sometimes that can be the X-factor.
“I think the second year’s going to be harder than the first. If he improves his ranking into the top 20 consistently this year, he’ll be doing a really good job because a lot of players will know his game.
“You can’t go round the circuit and do well without other players trying to work you out and beat you.
“But I think he’s smart enough to keep his head down, not get too ahead of himself because he wants to be really good, not just a top 30 player.”
|With an attractive girlfriend to match his attractive play, the future looks bright for young Aussie [GETTY]|
Tomic was marked for bigger things when he became the youngest player to win a match at the Australian Open on his 2009 debut, but his relationship with the tennis establishment Down Under have not always been rosy.
He slammed Australian Open organisers for scheduling a late evening match for him in 2010, saying it was too taxing for a player of 17, and angered Hewitt by snubbing an invitation to practice with him.
Despite an impressive display in Australia’s losing Davis Cup world group playoff against Federer-led Switzerland last
year, team captain Pat Rafter jibed that he needed to work harder to make it in the big leagues.
Tomic has, nonetheless, shown nerves of steel on centre court in Melbourne, where U.S. Open-winning compatriot Sam Stosur froze and was bundled out in the first round.
“I think he’s got the presence and the maturity now to handle (the pressure) and he’s continually proved that he’ll be
able to handle that,” said Fitzgerald, a director with governing body Tennis Australia.
“He looks bigger and stronger, he has more miles in his legs and he’s lasting five sets which is a good effort for a
19-year-old. It takes a few years to get enough miles in the legs.
“I think he’s just got to keep learning his craft. He plays well on the big stage, so he’s got a very promising future.”