Australian Open 2012: Why Bernard Tomic Upsetting Fernando Verdasco Was No Fluke

Marilee GallagherContributor IIJanuary 16, 2012

Australian Open 2012: Why Bernard Tomic Upsetting Fernando Verdasco Was No Fluke

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    You can say all that you want about upsets, but when the young Australian phenom Bernard Tomic battled his way back from two sets to love en route to winning an incredible five-setter against No. 22-ranked Fernando Verdasco, it was more than just an astonishing victory over a top 25 player. Considered an upset based on ranking, it really wasn't that much of a surprise to see Tomic, who just last year reached the Wimbledon Quarterfinals, beat the higher-seeded Verdasco. Since Wimbledon last year, the 19-year-old Aussie who turned pro only four years ago really made his mark on the world of Grand Slam tennis. He continued to rise in the ranks and is now considered one of the best young players to watch in the future.

    Tomic's play is uplifting for an Australian nation that used to boast the world number one in Lleyton Hewitt. While Hewitt's glory days are long behind him, the baton has now been passed to Tomic to carry the hopes and dreams of one continent on his back. Luckily for Australia, with the way Tomic has been playing and the potential to only get better, it might not be long at all until they can boast another Grand Slam Champion.

He Has the Mentality of a Champion

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    At only nineteen years old, it is pretty amazing to say that skill level aside, Bernard Tomic could be a Grand Slam Champion. What sets him aside from his teenage competitors is that Tomic doesn't play like a 19-year-old, rather he plays like a seasoned vet.

    While he has nowhere near the experience to build off of such as guys like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Tomic has an understanding of the game of tennis very similar to these superstars. For a young guy just barely on the Grand Slam scene, Tomic has shown an ability to read his competitors, allowing him to take advantage of their weaknesses and use it to his advantage.

    Just like all young players, Tomic still has various areas of his game that he can improve upon. He has so much potential. With the right coaching and training, he can easily elevate his game to be one of the best in the world. Having already mastered the mental aspect, Tomic has jumped over a big hurdle that some players never get over. He knows he has the skill and, since his breakout to the pros, has shown that he knows how to use that skill to win. 

He Can Compete on the Big Stage

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    Some players let the pressure of the big tournaments get to them and those players are sometimes even seasoned vets. It is not unheard of for a pretty good player to fold under the pressure of a televised match or with the eyes of millions watching them. Some guys crack and their games suffer. So far in his career, Tomic has not been bothered by the spotlight, and it bodes well for him as he will likely be under more and more of it as his career progresses. 

    It is very hard to beat top players in the world if you get frazzled by attention, especially at the four slams. Tomic has shown incredible resolve and poise when playing on the big stage as he made a huge breakthrough at Wimbledon last year. Playing at perhaps the most prominent tennis tournament in the world, Tomic played incredibly well, including beating the fifth-ranked player in the world.

He Is Gutsy and Not Afraid to Go for the Big Play

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    This may not be a famous saying, but I will contend that no one ever wins a championship like the Australian Open without two things: luck and risk.

    You know the expression, "The luck of the draw?" It comes from tennis. Okay, well it didn't actually originate with tennis but it can be applied to the sport quite perfectly. Sometimes getting lucky in the draw can make all of the difference. It could mean not having to face an opponent who constantly beats you or it could mean going up against qualifiers and wildcards for the first two rounds. Luck can also mean the top ranked player goes out with an injury during a match against you or they have to miss the tournament completely. 

    Although luck is important in tennis, it only takes you so far. More important than luck is being gutsy and not being afraid to pull the trigger on a big play if you have to.

    Tomic knows a little about being risky as he is an extremely gutsy player. Rarely ever does the Aussie play it safe in matches. Although sometimes it has cost him, more often than not his no-fear attitude has helped him to beat better-skilled opponents. Having talent is one thing, but just like the big superstars of this time, Tomic isn't afraid to risk it all for a shot at glory.

No Particular Weak Aspect of His Game

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    If you look at Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, what do they all have in common?

    All three of these players don't have a weak aspect to their tennis game. Sure they have abilities and skills better than some others, but all of it together gives them a complete tennis game. Unlike guys like Andy Roddick, who has long lived and died by his serve, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic possess a plethora of tennis skills and offer up many ways to beat you.

    Although young and still improving, Tomic seems to be well on his way to being the next Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Andy Murray, etc. With only three full pro-seasons under his belt, Tomic has continually gotten better, having increased and improved upon many aspects of his game. I wouldn't say he is fully there yet, but his game is emerging as one of the best of guys his age. He has all of the skills and knowledge—he just needs a bit of refinement. 

    He has a good (not great) serve and has one of the best slice backhands currently in the game. His forehand is also strong and powerful, and he has the ability to change speeds with it and offers different, hard-to-track looks for opponents. The only really weak aspect is his serve and volley, but as evidenced by his first round victory, it is something he has improved upon and will continue improving as his career progresses.

Has the Ability to Face Up Against and Beat Top Ranked Players

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    One of the most promising things for Tomic, talent aside, is that he does not shy away in the face of adversity which in his case comes in the form of higher ranked and statistically better players. Tomic is never one to back down or give up from a challenge and that especially was evidenced when he faced the near impossible task of going up against world No. 1 in 2011.

    In 2011, Novak put together what many are calling the best tennis season ever as he won three of the four slams and had an incredible match-winning streak. In the 2011 Wimbledon Quarterfinals, Tomic, after beating the 28th and fifth seeded players, won the unenviable task of being matched up against Djokovic.

    In a match where many expected the 18-year-old to just roll over, Tomic did nothing of the sort. He battled against Djokovic and even managed to take a set off of the eventual champion. This performance impressed many as Tomic was one of only a handful of players in 2011 who could actually say they accomplished the feat of winning a set against Novak.

    Besides taking a set off of Djokovic, Tomic also has some big top 25 wins in his short career. In the 2010 season, he actually beat No. 3-ranked Djokovic in straight sets in an exhibition match and defeated No. 14 Marin Cilic in a five-setter in the second round of the Australian Open. He also defeated Stanislas Wawrinka and took a set off of Roger Federer in the 2011 Davis Cup Playoffs. 

He Is Still Only Nineteen

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    I don't think I can stress this point enough. Tomic is only 19 years old. Not only does this mean he still has incredible potential, but he also has so much room to grow and improve. The future is certainly bright for the young Tomic because he is not only ranked in the top fifty, a number sure to go up after his first round upset victory, but he is also already such a talented and hard working player.

    Roger Federer didn't win his first grand slam title until he was 22, Novak Djokovic not until he was 21, Rafael's Nadal's first came at 19 and Andy Murray at 24 has yet to win his first.

    There is no rush for Tomic, but if he follows these superstars on his path to glory, his first Grand Slam could come as soon as this year. Maybe, just maybe, the Australian Open will be his time to have his name recognized as a star. If not, however, no rush. The kid is after all only nineteen and will only get better as he reaches the prime of his career. 

Has the Heart and Passion for the Sport

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    Sometimes as important as talent is having the desire to win. Sure, everybody wants to win, but only few really have the perfect combination of determination and drive for victory. Two of these guys are ranked in the top three in the world and another one of them is this nineteen year old.

    Whether it is the expectations that have been placed on him by his country, the desire to be the best and the talent to make it happen or just a passion for the sport of tennis, Bernard Tomic has the right winning mentality. He has shown this in all of his matches against better players. He doesn't give up and he grinds out and fights to the last stroke of every match. He truly seems to love the game of tennis and has many of the intangibles that are sure to make him successful in the future.

Never Concedes a Loss Until the Match Is over

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    This tournament was not the first time that Tomic came out of a 2-0 hole on his way to winning the match and, based on his gritty style of play, it probably won't be the last. Tomic has easily been the comeback kid throughout his career and has managed to climb out of some very deep holes to make some pretty amazing (albeit improbable) comebacks.

    Although it wouldn't hurt him if he started playing strong, Tomic has a never-give-up mentality. Most players, when down two sets to love against a better opponent, will just call it quits. It is evident by their demeanor and decreased level of play.

    So far in his career, this is not an option for Tomic. For a guy his age, he has shown incredible poise in these situations and he has great determination. Being down two sets to love while already being the underdog doesn't phase Tomic because he has nothing to lose.

    Instead of giving up, Tomic uses his own brand of psychological and mental tactics to get into his opponent's head. It is at this point that he pulls the trigger on one of his powerful forehands or carefully placed backhands. Eventually, as Tomic mounts his comeback, such as against Verdasco, it was Fernando who began to show signs of defeat.

    Some of the best tennis players have come back from deficits to win major championships, and the fact that Tomic has been able to do it with some frequency at his young age is a good sign for the future of this player.

He Has Top-Ten Talent

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    It is obvious that Tomic has incredible talent. There is no denying that his game is certainly one of the best from emerging players. He has the raw talent and as mentioned in previous slides, tons of intangibles. Partnering these two things give Tomic the best chance of success because not only can he beat his opponents in the mental game, he can also beat them in the physical game as well.

    As far as the top ten players go, Tomic has elements of his game that could go toe-to-toe with most of these guys. Many tennis analysts have cited his backhand slice as one of the best in the game and have compared aspects of his backhand shot to that of world No.1 Novak Djokovic and world No. 4 Andy Murray. In fact, much of his game has drawn comparisons to that of the 24-year-old Scot.

    Tomic also has a stellar forehand. His serve which is not as powerful as the top guys in the game is still above average. He has a pretty solid return and after working on his smash and serve and volley, he has improved this part of his game as well. He may not be as fleet of feet as Nadal or Novak, but he can hold his own in a baseline rally.

    Obviously, Tomic can still improve things such as serve and shot placement, but that is something that he will gain as his development continues. His game right now, one that mixes finesse with power, is one of the better and more complete games as far as up and coming stars go and he is easily the best bet of the current up-and-comers to win a major in the next two or three years.

He Doesn't Fold Under Immense Pressure

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    When you come from a country that has produced one of the best tennis legends of all time, there is always the pressure to succeed. Adding to the fact that Australian tennis hasn't really been prominent since the glory days of Rod Laver, and there is even more pressure for Australian tennis players. First it was Lleyton Hewitt and after winning two majors, he has faded into relative obscurity. It seems that the pressure to be that guy for Australia was too much for the former world No. 1. Bernard Tomic, on the other hand, seems to be embracing the role of Australia's current best tennis player.

    Although it may be too soon to judge how he handles the pressure, Tomic so far hasn't had a problem with it. He knows that the hopes and dreams of Australia winning another major ride on his racket and he has really embraced that. He has the backing of an entire country behind him, especially at the Australian Open. Everyone will be cheering for him and he appears to have adjusted well to all of the attention.