Tomic ’risks life’, does the unthinkable
Bernard Tomic has taken a major step towards emerging from the tennis wilderness, qualifying for the Australian Open following another hard-fought win in Doha on Thursday morning (AEDT).
The 28-year-old defeated countryman John-Patrick Smith 6-4 5-7 7-6 (10-7) to claim victory in his third and final qualifying match and secure safe passage through to the main draw at Melbourne Park in February.
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Showing grit not usually associated with him, Tomic held his nerve in a tense final set tiebreak to rattle off his third straight three-set win in Qatar.
Tennis writer Tumaini Carayol summed up the mood when he tweeted: "Well done, really. I don't think many people expected that."
Commentator Jose Morgado referred to Tomic as a "mental giant" after the match - not a phrase anyone would have thought applicable for a man known as Tomic the Tank Engine for his lacklustre efforts in matches over the years.
Asked afterwards if he still harboured the desire to resurrect his career, which has fallen off a cliff, Tomic was his typically fiery self, claiming he risked his life for a shot at playing in his home grand slam.
"I am in Doha, I risked my life flying here, my health, COVID's around, many sick, with many things that can go wrong," Tomic said. "I'm risking my life, and I'm playing and competing. Of course, I want to get there.
"Otherwise I'd be hanging my racquets up. I don't need to play tennis again, I've got enough money - so why are you asking me that question? Don't ask questions like that."
The ex-world No. 17 also hit out at the media for the way it's treated him over the years, and called for some positive press after his memorable win.
"You're the people who write the bad stuff about me. I've qualified for a slam - what should you be writing?" he said.
"I don't think you guys have been fair towards me in the last half-decade, (or) decade. You can spin it whatever way you want, but don't escape the fact I've qualified for a slam.
"If you like me and you're a fan of me, write nice."
The former Wimbledon quarter-finalist has slumped to a world ranking of 228 and been relegated from the bright lights of the ATP Tour. It looked like his Australian Open dream was shot when down 15-30, 4-5 on serve in the final set but he kept his composure and bounced back to claim a memorable win.
Tomic has had injury issues of late - he pulled out of the final of a UTR Pro Tennis Series event in Brisbane last month - and admitted his body was aching more than ever after the three-set epic.
"I'm very tired, more tired than happy to be honest. I've never been this tired, and I've played a lot of tennis," Tomic said.
"I'm not over-excited but it is a good thing, it is nice - but I'm physically pretty bad.
"JP's playing well, and had nothing to lose. I was physically so bad, I wasn't able to execute my shots."
Once tipped as the next big thing in Australian tennis, Tomic has previously said he's felt "trapped" by tennis, doesn't love the sport, treats it just like a job and would prefer to sit back and count his money - but perhaps some of his appreciation is slowly coming back.
Ahead of his match against Smith, Tomic said he can see himself playing until his mid-30s - a claim that would surprise anyone who's followed his career.
Maybe the lack of travel during COVID-19 lockdowns has reminded him there is still some joy to be found in the sport he's played since childhood.
"I feel like now I've rested, I'm ready and I've given myself a chance to put in at least another, let's say, four, five, six … seven years," Tomic told AAP.
"I ain't got to play to 38, 39 - there's some guys out there playing at that age, there's no chance that's me.
"But seven years done - 35? If I'm still top 50, top 100 then yeah, I'll keep playing."
Tomic flamed out in the first round of qualifying for last year's Australian Open, in 2019 he lost in the first round to Croatian Marin Cilic and he lost in the final qualifying round when trying to book his place in the main draw in 2018.
But he's optimistic about a better showing this year.
Originally published as Tomic 'risks life', does the unthinkable