A-Tomic Aussie ignites Open


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Bernard Tomic in action against Fernando Verdasco

'Local player defies odds to do well at home tournament!' It's a story that will always capture the imagination of the watching public, and Monday at the Australian Open was no different.

Bernard Tomic adorned most of the front pages of his nation's newspapers on the day the first Grand Slam of the season got under way - and his sensational performance in his opener against Fernando Verdasco ensured his face will still be there 24 hours later.

Tomic's apparent arrogance, displayed in comments regarding his experienced 10th-seeded opponent in the build-up, looked terribly misplaced as the young Aussie fell two sets behind on a fervent Rod Laver Arena. But with the egg on his face about to congeal, Tomic dug deep and hit back, winning the next three sets to clinch an early contender for match of the tournament.

It was an explosive start to the week for Australia's number one male player - nuclear-based headlines don't come cheaply - suggesting that the 19-year-old is oblivious to the pressure most of his compatriots wilt under.

Having given himself a mountain to climb, the manner in which he came good on his pre-match boasts - that Verdsaco "wasn't going to hurt him", that recently the Spaniard "hasn't really done much" and that "it's a good time to play him" - hinted that his hype could well be justified.

Self-belief is a pre-requisite for any champion, and there is no doubt that Tomic has that in spades. The victory over Verdasco also showed us that he is fit, a fighter and mentally tough. His shot selection remains questionable, as does some of his shot-making and his mobility around the court, but those are areas of his game that can be worked on.

Tomic could go far in this tournament - all the way to a meeting with Roger Federer in the fourth round, and maybe even beyond - but what his latest performance has given is real hope for the future.

Australia yearns for sporting heroes like no other nation and if Tomic can continue his upward trajectory, he seems destined to become the next one.

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While Australia celebrated its latest favourite son's triumph, Monday proved a dark day for British tennis.

Six players qualified for the main draw this year, the first time there has been that many Brits since the Australian Open in 1992, 20 years ago. It was a fine achievement.

Yet just a day into the tournament, only one remains.

Andy Murray is used to flying the flag on his own, but he could have been forgiven for thinking he would still have a couple of wingmen/women ahead of the start of his own campaign on Tuesday.

Not so after a disastrous day which failed to yield a single set in the five British players' matches.

Heather Watson - despite an encouraging start - was blown away by Victoria Azarenka, Elena Baltacha fell to Stephanie Foretz Gacon, Laura Robson was outclassed by Jelena Jankovic and Anne Keothavong retired through illness as she was still struggling to digest a bagel fed to her in the first set by Mona Barthel.

To complete an utterly miserable day, men's draw qualifier Jamie Ward was sent packing in straight sets by Blaz Kavcic.

Robson later pointed out that the only reason why so many Brits fell was because a quirk of the draw had them all playing on the same day and that some of their opponents - Azarenka and Jankovic in particular - were always favourites to win.

It's a fair point, but one that cannot mask the fact that none of the fallen Brits were able to make good on LTA supremo Leon Smith's hope that his players would make the next step and "not just qualify for the world's biggest tournaments, but then go further in the competition".

Nor was the disappointment of a day to forget for British tennis hidden, and the faces of the players in their press conferences - emotionally-charged, in some cases - told their own stories. Over to you Andy... plus ca change.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I didn't get my coffee in the morning today, so I was really p***ed off. So tomorrow I'm definitely getting it. It was so early and I wanted to come play a little bit longer on centre court. Everything was closed. I said, 'oh my God, I need my coffee'." The absence of a morning caffeine hit did not appear to slow Victoria Azarenka down, as the Belarusian sped to that straight-sets victory over Watson.

OUTFIT OF THE DAY: Clearly taking its cue from highway maintenance chic, Verdasco's fluorescent yellow shirt with bright orange trimmings forced many spectators on Rod Laver Arena to don sunglasses.

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Fernando Verdasco in action against Bernard Tomic


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Australian fan at Melbourne Park

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Margaret Court Arena as dusk falls in Melbourne.

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Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park

LOOKING AHEAD: Look no further than Andy Murray's clash with American teen Ryan Harrison as Novak Djokovic begins the defence of his title against Paolo Lorenzi. In the women's draw, Serena kicks off her campaign against Tamira Paszek and Maria Sharapova is in action against Gisela Dulko.

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