Finished strongly ... Tomic.

Finished strongly ... Tomic. Photo: Anthony Johnson

BERNARD TOMIC sealed a breakthrough victory when he defeated South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in the final of the Sydney International.

He celebrated with gusto, falling to his knees and kissing the Ken Rosewall Arena's centre court; ripping off his shirt and hurling it into a crowd that had roared him home. He told Rosewall, a living legend, it was a pleasure to have played in his presence and with his father, John, watching from the stands with tears in his eyes, Tomic walked off … without his first senior trophy.

"It's an amazing feeling and now I know what it's like to win a tournament - it's the best feeling in the world," he said. "I'm so happy I won and to do it here in Sydney is awesome; I can't ask for anything better.

"I can't stop here now, I have to look towards the next tournament and keep playing the tennis I've been playing … I know I'll win a lot more if I keep this attitude up."

Playing in his first ATP world tour final, Tomic looked at home against the more experienced Anderson as he chased two worthy milestones.

He was determined to join the likes of Lleyton Hewitt to become only the ninth local to win the title in the Open era, while he was also in a position to be the first 20-year-old since Roger Federer in 2002 to win the Sydney event.

Tomic quickly asserted himself by taking the opening set 6-3, and when the world No.36 Anderson threatened to fight back with Tomic leading the first set 5-3, the Aussie displayed great poise to remain in control.

Anderson dominated the second set, and while Tomic stayed in the race, there was concern that his footwork appeared heavy, his double-handed backhand had become loose and his tendency to play behind the baseline was working in his opponent's favour.

It was a crucial period for Tomic, who had declared that his game, which upstaged world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the Hopman Cup, had benefited from a new fitness regime.

While Tomic, was pushed around in the second-set rallies by the 26-year-old South African, he insisted he was always in control of his nerves. "I was nervous but I knew how to counter my nerves and I stepped up," he said.

"I played aggressive and Kevin was in these situations a few more times than me. For me to get in this final and to play the way I did in that first set was really confident. The second set, full credit to him. The third set, under pressure, I think I was playing really good."

As the Queenslander proved his mettle, he also won over the home crowd, who delighted in Tomic giving them a reason to embrace him.

Among them was the great Rosewall, who, only a few months ago, admitted he was concerned by headlines that documented such things as Tomic's brushes with the law for speeding in his sports car on the Gold Coast and a rift with Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter.

That was forgotten last night. Tomic returned for the third set displaying the spirit and aggression that allowed him to stamp his authority at the start of the game. He returned shots with pace, the depth on those shots increased and he put Anderson on the backfoot.

With the crowd urging him on, Tomic stormed home and took the third set - and match - with a cross-court forehand. He may indeed be the great hope of Australian tennis.