A Tomic bomb ticking all the right boxes
Despite the quality of Michael Clarke’s record since taking over the Test captaincy, he’d been much-maligned until his Sydney triple ton. But Clarke’s record-breaking knock has finally silenced the knockers.
The performance was all the more memorable because it happened it was on home soil. Amplified media attention, free-to-air TV coverage, and the ability to attend events live means sport played domestically is afforded extra credence.
Bernard Tomic now finds himself in a similar boat to the former Mr Lara Bingle.
In spite of his obvious racquet-wielding flair and some outstanding results abroad, like making the 2011 Wimbledon quarter finals where he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in four sets, the 19-year-old’s detractors have been many.
“He moves like a giraffe on rollerblades”, “he needs to use his legs more when serving”, “he doesn’t have the weaponry to match it with the big four…”. The list goes on.
The post-pubescent prodigy did himself no favours in the popularity stakes with some decidedly dubious behaviour. He had a row with Lleyton Hewitt, there were instances of on-court dissent, and whingeing about playing “past his bedtime”.
His father did little to help the cause, going all Damir Dokic in 2010 and threatening to boycott Bernard from Australian tennis.
This summer though, Tomic has showcased a newfound maturity and positive attitudinal shift.
There’ve been no dummy-spits, no excuses, nor reckless driving charges. He has let his tennis talent do the talking; reaching a maiden ATP tour Semi-final in Brisbane and claiming a brace of top-ten scalps in winning the Kooyong exhibition.
If these early-season results were akin to Michael Clarke’s century against New Zealand in the first Test, Tomic’s defeat of Fernando Verdasco yesterday was Pup’s 329* against India. It was a watershed occasion; a triumph in so many ways.
Like the skipper at the SCG, the man they call “Bernie” announced his class unequivocally, at home, on a grand stage.
In a pulsating contest he looked like being jettisoned in a straight-sets swoop by the Spaniard ranked 13 places higher. But a la Hewitt so many times before him, Tomic’s Yonex began yielding winners, and a comeback was on the cards. He wrenched himself back into the contest from the brink of opening-round oblivion and ultimately cowed the crumbling Verdasco to prevail 7-5 in the fifth.
He sealed the victory with a trademark flat-slapped forehand, but the moments that followed sealed his standing as the real deal in the eyes of Australians.
After such a stirring win the Gold Coast native could’ve been forgiven for a somewhat gratuitous celebration. But there weren’t any over-the-top antics. After more than four hours of big-hitting battle, Bernie simply smiled and held his arms aloft; delighted but dignified.
The self-deprecation that followed (“The crowd got me through… it was you guys not me”) was further testament to his maturity.
If there are a handful who remain unconvinced of the appeal of the youngest bloke in the world’s top 50, remember this; Bernard Tomic is a tennis player-not a celebrity-and he’s still only 19.
While most teens the world over are content with merely “being” Roger Federer on X-Box, our man Bernie could actually play the Swiss champ in the Oz Open’s second week.
His career is in its infancy-most players aren’t primed until their mid-twenties-we should rejoice in every apparently premature success.
So what if his mug’s more like KD Lang than Pat Rafter? Anna Kournikova showed us sex symbol status doesn’t equate to tournament wins.
And no his rhetoric isn’t great, but as Obama’s finding out, perspicacious public speaking doesn’t necessarily mean positive public opinion.
Tomic should be judged purely by his displays between the baselines, not his aesthetics, speaking style or the car he drives. The I hate Bernard Tomic Facebook group is scheduled to be archived; a fitting metaphor indeed.
The notion of resenting Bernie is outdated. No longer the juvenile firebrand who once stormed off-court mid-match, he’s grown up, in every sense. It’s time everyone truly embraced the great hope of Australian men’s tennis. He has earned our respect.
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