By Mike McIntyre
Since reaching the quarter-finals of his first Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon, many tennis fans have been wondering who exactly is Bernard Tomic? Here's a look into a rising star on the ATP World Tour who appears to be on the cusp of breaking into the upper echelon of the men's game.
Ranked 158th in the world at the moment (although shooting into the top hundred is an inevitability) Tomic was born in Stuttgart, Germany to Croatian parents. Tomic grew up in Australia where he has lived since he was 3 years old.
Tomic stands an imposing 6'4'' but weighs a mere 170lbs and he turns 19 in October. Coached by his somewhat controversial father John Tomic, the youngster lists grass as his favorite surface on the tour website, a fact that now seems to make perfect sense.
Tomic won the 2008 Australian Open Junior Boys Championship as a fifteen year old which made him the youngest to ever win the event. In 2009 he won the U.S. Open Junior Boys title.
When Tomic made the third round of the Aussie Open men's event in 2010 it marked the first meaningful results on the pro tour. While he was eventually defeated by Rafael Nadal in straight sets he still managed to beat two top-fifty players in the opening rounds against Jeremy Chardy and Feliciano Lopez.
This year, Tomic reached the semi-finals of the grass court tune-up event in Nottingham before losing to Dudi Sela and now has advanced to his first ever Grand Slam quarter-final where he will face second ranked Novak Djokovic.
While Tomic has never played his next opponent Novak Djokovic in a regular tour match, the two did play at the 2010 Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament in Melbourne. In that match, Tomic prevailed by a score of 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
At the time Djokovic said that, "He is a very talented player. He's only 17 years old and he's got the shots, he's got the weapons, definitely."
Tomic has defeated some big-time players at this year's WImbledon. In succession he has sent Nikolay Davydenko, Igor Andreev, Robin Soderling and Xavier Malisse packing. Davydenko was until recently a permanent fixture in the top-ten. Andreev has had always been a tricky player and had made the final sixteen at Wimbledon before. Soderling is the first top-ten victim that Tomic has claimed in his young career and Malisse is a seasoned veteran who has always been quite comfortable on grass and made the semis here in 2002. In other words, nobody should count Tomic out against his next opponent, despite the fact that Djokovic has only lost once this year.
Tomic's young career has not been without controversy however, as evidenced with his long-standing feud with Lleyton Hewitt. Australia's foremost tennis player of the past ten years had a falling-out with his heir apparent here at Wimbledon in 2009. On the practice courts that year, Tomic's camp apparently snubbed a request from Hewitt's entourage at a hitting session. It was alleged that Tomic's agent made a comment to the Hewitt group that the veteran was, "not good enough" to hit with the youngster.
Australia's current David Cup captain, former tour stalwart Pat Rafter, expects the two to repair their rift as they both represent their country in a Davis Cup tie against China next month.
"Once you get into a team environment everyone bonds because everyone has the same goals, representing your team and that is Australia," Rafter said. "That will not get in the way of anything else. I have had my problems with players in the past. I have had disputes and then we go out and play Davis Cup the next week like nothing ever happened. That is the way it should be and that is the way it will be I am sure when they get together."
While it seems likely to be a case of Tomic's team and his sometimes outspoken father John being behind the apparent rift, Tomic is young still and should be judged for his on-court results. Those are clearly starting to ramp it up and along with Canadian Milos Raonic it is nice to see some new faces emerging on the ATP World Tour who we can look forward to watching grow in the year's to come.
Regardless of the result against Djokovic, Bernard Tomic has arrived. On Wednesday we get to find out just how much more he is ready to show us at the moment.