Just the Tomic

Bernard Tomic shakes hands with fans after winning his fourth round match against Xavier Malisse on June 27, 2011 Bernard Tomic has given Australian tennis fans something to cheer

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My first brush with Australian tennis royalty came in a swimming pool in Marrakesh of all places, when I found myself shoulder deep in water alongside a ridiculously handsome man who introduced himself, after a bit of nosy prodding, as a "retired sportsman". It quickly became clear that he must be a former tennis pro, and I waded over to my wife to tell her that we were staying in the same hotel as Mark Philippoussis.

"That's not Mark Philippoussis," she scoffed. "That's Pat Rafter."

Despite this unpromising start, Pat could hardly have been friendlier - the cricketer Adam Gilchrist is the only person I have met who rivals him in the sporting nice-guy stakes - and the conversation turned to the question which has weighed heavily on the minds of British tennis fans since the 1930s: "Why hasn't a Brit won Wimbledon in over 70 years?"

Tim Henman's great chance had come, I suggested, when he reached the semi-final in 2001 and took on Goran Ivanisevic, who was at the fag-end of his career. "All he had to do was beat Ivanisevic and he would doubtless have gone on to win the final," I said. It would have been a done deal. With that, I asked whether Pat had ever won Wimbledon. "I lost to Ivanisevic," came his cheerless reply.

I mention all this because in recent years, Australian tennis fans have been having a similar conversation: "When will an Aussie win Wimbledon?" True, the Australian drought has only lasted since 2002, which was the year that Lleyton Hewitt held aloft that famed golden trophy. However, in the land of Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Pat Cash, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley, that simply is not good enough.

Between the early 1950s and the early 1970s, Australian men won 14 out of 20 Wimbledon singles titles. In this golden era, the country won 15 Davis Cups. Alas, these days most Australian players do not even reach the second week of grand slam tournaments let alone the final. In the past 30 years, Australians have won just five singles titles - Pat Cash one, Pat Rafter two and Lleyton Hewitt two.

Now at least Australian tennis fans have a new star to root for: 18-year-old Bernard Tomic, who has become the youngest men's player since Boris Becker to reach the quarter-finals of Wimbledon. Remarkably, Tomic is the only Australian player inside the top 100 in the men's world rankings, and while few expect him to win this year's tournament, he has the talent to do so in the not so distant future. For Australia's gloom-laden tennis fans, that day cannot come soon enough.

"Tomic's arrival as a significant force couldn't be better timed for the traditional roaming gang of Australian tennis fans, or 'Earls Court posse', without whom Wimbledon would be... well, a lot less Australian," writes Giles Smith in The Times. "These ardent supporters were, incredibly, on the verge of extinction, thanks to a tragic lack of Australians to be ardent about."

Tomic, who was born in Germany to a Croatian-Australian father and Bosnian-Australian mother, has already predicted he will become the world's number one. "It's just a matter of when and where, and when I grow out of my body," Tomic told the Melbourne Age last year. "It's difficult now because I'm growing a lot."

Despite his one-time success, the Australian sporting public has never really taken to Lleyton Hewitt, largely because of his on-court petulance and a few well-publicised incidents of boorish behaviour. So Tomic is something of a modern-day rarity: an Australian tennis star appearing on the front pages and the back - and for all the right reasons.

Nick Bryant Article written by Nick Bryant Nick Bryant New York correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    That's a lot of hyphens for the boy! Croatian-Bosnian-German "Australian". Still, he's a big lad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    @7 Scruffy

    you’re supposed to be telling all me Pommy reloes what’s happening down here. It’s the footy season mate, State of Origin too. What you doin’ talking.

    If your reloes are like all other Pommies mate,the only footy season they are interested in dos'nt start till September.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Tenis? Yeh okay, I s’pose, have known people that watched it. Mostly chicks but, from the North Shore mate or had uni degrees n’stuff. Jees Nick, you’re the Beeb’s reporter in ‘stralia mate, you’re supposed to be telling all me Pommy reloes what’s happening down here. It’s the footy season mate, State of Origin too. What you doin’ talking about

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I loved Cash. he was the man in black.

    i loved Rafter. he was packed (as the his Bonds commercial proved)

    I loved Hewitt. he is a major in the british army.

    But Tomic? i don't think I'll love him till he get's a real grown up personality.

    Nick, i'm enjoying your twitter too. keep it up. @nickbryantbbc


  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Agree with Verzino & Jimmy re Tomic being a bit of a brat. I also recall that there was much discussion in the media about Tomic being automatically offered a wild card to this years Australian Open, with some people holding the view that Tomic thought he was entitled to one without playing the lead-up tournaments to potentially earn it. But having said that its great to see him doing so well :)

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Verzino - It is great that Aussies read Nick's Blog and get a different perspective on issues here in Australia, but let's not forget that Nick is English writing for a predominantly English audience on the BBC website so the use of root in this context is not really that weird. Agree with your first sentence though - he once complained he had to play a match after his bedtime at the Aussie Open!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I know little about Bernard Tomic as a person, but there's little doubt that he is already a very good tennis player. Good that the Aussies at Wimbledon might be getting another hero to cheer on. And I agree with you about Pat Rafter - one of the friendliest men ever to grace a tennis court. I always remember his 'sorry, mate' if he missed his service ball toss... always courteous, always fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I am not sure Tomic is always written about for the right reasons. He is seen as a bit of a brat.
    I also find it funny that you wrote 'root' in an article about Australia. Being a Brit in Oz working in IT I have had a bit of trouble when discussing network routers.



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