Tomic can handle expectations
Bernard Tomic may not be among the favourites to triumph at the Australian Open over the coming fortnight, but he's in fine form nonetheless.PT0M0S 620 349
BERNARD TOMIC may have no plans to speak to Pat Rafter before September but the Davis Cup captain does not intend to let the January sun set on his stand-off with Australia's first tournament winner in 16 months.
''I want to congratulate him; it'll be fine,'' Rafter said. ''I think everything's been taken out of proportion a little bit.''
Tomic arrived at Melbourne Park on Sunday after the sleep-challenged night that followed his three-set defeat of South African Kevin Anderson in the Sydney International final, having become the tournament's first Australian winner since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 and the first 20-year-old champion since Roger Federer in 2002. Unbeaten in his eight matches this season, the unseeded Australian opens his Melbourne campaign against Argentinian Leonardo Mayer on Tuesday.
On a learning curve ... Tomic. Photo: Wayne Taylor
''It's amazing. It's a lot of confidence - it's very important for tennis to have a lot of confidence, so I'm really confident,'' said Tomic, who will return to the practice court on Monday after a brief respite to freshen up for his match against the world No.72. ''I'm going to use this as much as I can for Tuesday and this whole tournament. I'm playing really good tennis, feeling physically really well.
''Best-of-five [sets] is always difficult. You don't know how your body can pull up. I think I'm pretty fit. Not a lot of problems. I played five straight matches in Sydney. I had no problem after the tournament, so I feel physically fine. I'll be ready for five sets any day of the week … I've got to do as best as I can here, not disappoint myself, keep going as much as I can, prove to myself that I'm ready to play here in Melbourne as well.''
Yet the trouble-prone Queenslander admitted he was adjusting to a climbing popularity rating he described as ''a bit strange'', having perplexed many with his at-times feeble efforts and off-court dramas during a problematic 2012. ''Where should I start?'' he grinned, when asked to reflect on last year. ''I learnt so much. Ups and downs.
''I had my ups at the start in January. But then I had my downs. I'll learn from my downs. Lucky I learnt at my age, 20, not 25 and 28.''
Rafter would welcome it, having suspended Tomic from Australia's opening round Davis Cup tie against Taiwan next month, then been advised that the nation's reinstated No.1 had ruled himself out of the second. Tomic declared last week that he had made it ''very clear'' that he would not be chatting with Rafter any time soon. The captain, in contrast, told Fairfax Media he was willing and ready to engage ''any time [Tomic] wants''.
Yet the subject of an April boycott was not one Rafter would broach. ''That's a discussion that I want to have with him later,'' the dual US Open champion said.
Had any bridges been burnt that could not be rebuilt? ''Well, we'll soon find out,'' Rafter said. ''I'm sure it will be fine. Hope so.''
Rafter was more effusive about Tomic's sterling early season form, including the Hopman Cup exhibition scalp of world No.1 Novak Djokovic and three top-15 victims en route to his first career title in Sydney.
He said the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist had turned the corner ''in some ways, yeah''. ''Always the second-year syndrome is a tough one, as well, and he didn't come through that very well, and then he recognised that, and I think he's dealt with a lot of different pressures,'' Rafter said.
''But this year he's come out and he's just playing very freely, and he's hitting the ball beautifully.''
''He's played great. Gee, his tennis is amazing, and this is what he can potentially play, he's just going to get better, and hopefully, he can keep it up.
''He had a great Australian summer last year, and he's even better this year. He's a great player, he's a great talent, and hopefully he can keep this going.''
Tomic confirmed his ongoing support for his father and coach, John, to whom he paid tribute during the Sydney presentation. ''For me to win my title, have my dad by my side, was amazing. It was a huge feeling,'' Tomic jnr said.
''He is, for me, the best coach. That's why I've always had him by my side and always will continue to have him there to support me. Hopefully, I can win many more tournaments.''