Eyeing the future: Sara Tomic wins her first-round juniors match on Saturday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
IF SARA Tomic is less ambitious than her big brother, she doesn't have much catching up to do. She has big ideas: to become the best player in the world, to win grand slam tournaments, to win more of them than Bernard does. Trouble is, she's still only 14. ''That's still the plan and I'll get there,'' she said. ''I want to get there so fast, but I have to slow down. It takes time, a lot of dedication, hard work.''
She's off to a good start. Tomic made it to the quarter-finals of a tournament in Traralgon last week and yesterday won her first-round juniors match at the Open, dropping the first set but talking herself through it. She was pleased she found a way, that she had believed in herself, but soon afterwards her thoughts had turned to something else: getting up into Bernard's box to watch him play Roger Federer.
Having Bernard for a brother has its benefits. There have been practice sessions with him, which have shown Sara how fit she'll have to get, how many balls she'll have to get back. ''He sometimes hits a bit harder than me, but it should be like that. It's different playing with someone who does not miss, you see what the pro level's like. In juniors they miss, but at pro levels it's way up.'' There have also been plenty of rides in the yellow Ferrari. ''Of course, all the time! He loves it. I say: 'Can you take me to this, take me there?' It's all good.''
Before reintroducing himself to Roger, Bernard had described the talking-to he gave himself at the end of last season, the improved attitude that Sara has seen with her own eyes. Her brother was, she said, a changed man, but one with plenty of work still to do. ''I've seen him change in the last couple of months. It's big. He's really been confident and I'm so proud of him, even if he loses I'm proud. But I'm happy with what he's been doing, he's been working really hard the last nine weeks, and if he believes, he can do anything,'' she said.
''I saw Federer talking and he knows how hard it is to be top-10 because he's one of the world's best players, and it's just interesting how you see someone who's up there saying how tough it is when Bernard's just a little bit under. He just needs to know how really hard it is.''
Tomic will have more work to do herself, in a second-round match against fourth-seeded German Antonia Lottner she hoped to spend a few minutes studying before heading up to centre court. Once her Open is over she plans to play three grade-one junior tournaments for the year - ''and I want to win one of them, or all three, see how I go'' - and play in the junior event at Wimbledon. She studies via distance education, so that she can do enough training, and hasn't struggled for motivation so far.
''My mum helps me here and there and I have a teacher that comes every semester to see how I'm doing,'' she said. ''But I'm very good. I'm a straight A student. I love working.''
Tomic still feels like a kid some of the time, though. ''I idolise Serena Williams,'' she said. ''I just absolutely love her, I just adore her. I saw Venus, and I almost died.''