Aus Open Day 4: Tomic faces unknown in second round
Tennis writers Peter Hanlon and Linda Pearce preview Day 4 of the Australian Open. Bernard Tomic faces little-known second-round opponent Daniel Brands.PT0M0S 620 349
With apologies to James Duckworth, whose continued presence provides the welcome gift of cricket-related weather jokes, this Australian Open is now the Bernie Show. At least for those whose interest endures only as long as they serve Vegemite in the players' restaurant.
It should have been the Bernie and Sam Show. Which sounds like the sort of banal American sitcom relentlessly cross-promoted by Channel Seven. But Samantha Stosur wrote herself out of the tournament script in the second round with a performance so abject it should have had a laugh track.
Given there are Norwegian cricket teams with better records in Australia, Stosur's demise was not unexpected. What was shocking was the way a woman so muscular you can play the violin on her biceps relented against her far smaller, less mobile, yet more tenacious opponent. How does a player who has beaten Serena Williams in front of a hostile New York crowd manage to look like a kitten caught eating from a Rottweiler's feed bowl?
The suicide note of a double-fault with which Stosur lost the match was the obvious lowlight of her 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 defeat by the unimposing Zheng Jie. It was a loss that, you suspect, will haunt Stosur for some time.
There have been some awful matches played on Rod Laver Arena. But not many as error-riddled and angst-ridden as this. It was an encounter so unsightly that, the next time the pair make a court appearance, it should be to face charges of bringing the game into disrepute. Stosur's wild unforced errors. Zheng's 111km/h first serve. I could furnish further details. Or you could just YouTube some Three Stooges routines.
When she led 5-2 in the final set, it seemed Stosur would, at least, slay a mental demon. Instead, the monkey that climbs on Stosur's back when she clears customs has grown into the type of hulking ape Greg Norman used to lug around the back nine at Augusta. While it stays there, she will have more use for a banana than a backhand when playing in Australia.
Confident ... [Bernard] Tomic shows no signs of mental fragility. Photo: Joe Armao
Promisingly, Tomic shows no signs of mental fragility. Although, if he had half a brain - and there have been times when this estimate seemed a touch generous - he would have dropped a set against Leonardo Mayer on Tuesday night. At the least he should have made it look like beating the Argentinian was a task more arduous than picking lint from his belly button.
Instead Tomic committed a rookie mistake for an Australian ''hopeful'' at Melbourne Park. He won like a good thing. An error that Pat Rafter - another to carry the elephantine weight of local expectations - could have warned him against. That is, if Tomic and the Davis Cup captain were talking about anything other than what type of pistols to draw at dawn.
You enter new territory when you criticise Tomic for trying too hard. So, after his triumph in Sydney, let's assume the 20-year-old has the temperament to handle the tsunami of flag-waving hyperbole that will engulf him should he beat German qualifier Daniel Brands on Thursday with similar ease. Or, come to think of it, even if he wins 25-23 in the fifth.
Pain ... it was a loss that, you suspect, will haunt Stosur for some time. Photo: Joe Armao
There is even a chance that Australian Open broadcaster Seven will briefly remind its viewers, in a low-key sort of way, that Tomic's third-round opponent would be Roger Federer, who is from Switzerland; something that would be at odds with its chauvinistic practice of displaying Australian flags on the score box.
Significantly, Federer rather than Tomic will play his second-round match at night. You would have anticipated the Swiss would have been forced to play in the anticipated 40 degree heat, and served to his Australian challenger medium to well done.
The Bernie Show? Yes, we have been led down this road many times before. Rafter, Hewitt, Philippoussis, Dokic and, in times of particular crisis, even Andrew Ilie and Mark Woodforde have created the illusion the decades of local futility were about to end. Tomic may do no better. But he's already had a longer run than some of those cross-promoted sitcoms.