Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
A breakout chance can come as young as 18 or as old as 30, but either way, it is the tournament where a player says to the rest of the competition, "here I am." I was easily going to give the award for best breakout to Tomic, but another young player surprised me and I felt it was only fair to call this one a tie, as both made it to the round of 16.
With some memorable performances, Tomic has certainly had an amazing tournament—if you don't believe me, re-read the last slide. He has played great tennis, and has just about elevated his name from future-star to current-star. Although he was easily beaten by Roger Federer in the round of 16, Tomic still firmly established himself as a force in the world of tennis.
Be honest: before this Australian Open, had any of you heard of the Kazakhstani player Mikhail Kukushkin? I hadn't, but I had heard of Bernard Tomic. Tomic's rise was somewhat expected, as he has been billed as the next great Australian hope.
But for Kukushkin, a 24-year-old making only his second Aussie Open appearance, no one expected a breakout performance. While Tomic's success helped him to live up to the name he had already been given, Mikhail's success helped him to establish a name all on his own.
The Kazakhstani—ranked No. 92 in the world—didn't have an easy road in order to reach the round of 16. He won his first round match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, but then drew No. 18 Victor Troicki for his second round matchup.
Kukushkin came back from down a set to win his match in five. He played solid tennis throughout and outlasted Troicki. The win wasn't exactly a reason to celebrate, because he then drew one the toughest opponents he had to face in the extremely speedy No. 14 Gael Monfils.
In a somewhat surprising fashion, Kukushkin took a two sets to love lead, but Monfils battled back to force a fifth set. The much quicker Monfils played well, but Kukushkin fared better and ultimately won the match—and a trip to the round of 16. Against Andy Murray, Kukushkin was clearly outmatched, and in the middle of the third set was forced to retire.
Both Tomic and Kukushkin put up valiant efforts in their breakout slam, and it is pretty certain that we'll be hearing these players' names a lot of in the future. So learn how to say it: Kukushkin, because he is going to be causing trouble for the ranks for a long time to come.