By David Packman
In perhaps one of the best performances of his career to date, Australian Bernard Tomic has upset world No.1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets, 6-4 6-4, at a packed Perth Arena.
Tomic arrived on court tonight full of belief, and a determination to prove to his critics that his vows of bringing a higher level of dedication and focus to the court in 2013 was far more than just lip service.
His raw talent has always been a given, and has even been acknowledged by Djokovic himself, who has said in the past that the young Australian can become a top player if he believes in himself and puts in the required work.
And, in an almost flawless display tonight, Tomic did just that, looking confident and poised as he lapped up the energy provided by the record crowd, taking it right up to the Serb from the outset.
After bringing up a string of five break points on Djokovic’s opening service game, it was clear Tomic was going to ask the world’s best some serious questions.
On the other side of the court, the Serb was looking a little shaky, making more unforced errors than we are accustomed to seeing from him – but this was in large part due to Tomic’s ability to continue keeping him off balance.
The first set produced some spectacular tennis but one wondered if Tomic could keep up the high level required to keep Djokovic at bay for an entire match.
The first crack appeared with the Serb ahead 4-3 as Tomic pushed a tired forehand into the bottom of the net allowing a break point against him. In the end though, that turned out to be the Australian’s only blemish for the night as he not only held but went on to break Djokovic in the very next game with two blistering forehands in a row before confidently serving out the first set.
Tomic raised his level further in the second set, and as Djokovic’s “bounce count” prior to serve got higher and higher, one could sense he was under increasing pressure.
The crowd reached fever pitch as Tomic continued to go to work on his opponent. His first break points came at 3-3 but the vastly experienced Djokovic held firm.
However, when Tomic rushed out to 0-40 on the world No.1’s next service game, the writing looked to be pencilled on the wall. Once again though, Djokovic clawed his way back to deuce but this time it was not enough. Despite saving two more break points, he eventually sent a forehand over the baseline to give the Australian his second break for the match and a glimpse at the finish line.
On the precipice of toppling the world number one, Tomic was undaunted, capping off a sublime performance with a confident service game to close out the match.
With the raucous crowd on their feet in appreciation, Tomic thanked them for their support and told them he’d been “working on his head a lot”.
“And not get distracted,” he added with a wry grin.
And based on his results this week – wins over Tommy Haas and now Djokovic – it looks to be working.
After the match, Tomic agreed that the win was possibly the best of his career and put it down to his increased level of commitment to both the physical and mental aspects of his game.
“Hard work does pay off,” he said. “This [win] today was a very good sign.”
“This was exactly what I needed before the Australian Open.”
Conversely, Djokovic told media he wasn’t yet close to his best but had expected that to be the case at this early point in the year.
“I started my preparations much later than most of the other players due to the late season finish,” he said. “But it’s been like that for me over the years.”
He took nothing away from Tomic, however, heaping praise on the young Australian and saying he was in great form and deserved to win.