All eyes were fixed on one man on Court No.18 as spectators crammed into every inch of space to watch a rising star in men’s tennis. Many of the people who jostled for a viewing point at court and rooftop level witnessed what they came to see, Australian prodigy Bernard Tomic in full flow. And, he certainly kept his side of the bargain.
Under the glare of the baking sun arching over the show court, Tomic kept things nice and quick in easing to a straight sets victory over veteran James Blake to advance to the third round.
Having reached the quarter-finals at The All England Club two years ago, there is a measure of expectation on Tomic to repeat that feat, given that the result at Wimbledon spurred him on to climb the men’s rankings and placed his name firmly in the spotlight.
Confidence plays a major role in tennis, and at the moment, Tomic has it in abundance.
Content to exchange baseline rallies all day it seemed, Tomic enjoyed his opponent’s regular runs to the net early on as it provided the 20-year-old with space to free his arms and go for the lines. For all his experience and nous, Blake couldn’t handle the Australian’s onslaught.
Blake miscued a cross-court forehand in the fourth game of the match to give the man on the other side of the net, who is 13 years his junior, a crucial early break of serve.
Having successfully held his nerve and served out a five-set grudge match with Sam Querrey in the opening round, Tomic’s serve was in a nice rhythm again and he hit an ace, which scuffed the line, to claim the opener.
Given Blake’s unfortunate luck with injuries throughout large parts of his career, it might have been expected that this match would boil down to who had the physical edge, but in truth, that wasn’t the case. There was a pattern emerging of unforced errors from Blake's frame and it continued right the way through their encounter.
Blake had more than one chance to hold his opening service game in the second set but Tomic broke and finished the point off with an accurate overhead. Tomic then consolidated his advantage after the American sent a forehand well wide. With a set and a break to his name, Tomic was cruising.
Having battled through Eastbourne qualifying before Wimbledon and secured his first main draw win in four months against Thiemo de Bakker in the opening round, Blake is not the type of guy to throw in the towel and he dug deep to break back and take the eighth game to level the set at 4-4.
However, again, a combination of Tomic’s consistency in all aspects of his game and missed chances by the American was the underlying theme of the match. At deuce, Blake mis-hit a gilt-edged forehand volley and it took the sting out of his fightback as Tomic wrapped up the game to win the second set 6-4.
Another early break for Tomic in the third accelerated his lead to 3-1, and despite Blake managing to level the set at 5-5, Tomic upped the ante once more to win the decisive set 7-5.
Tomic, who will play Richard Gasquet next, said maintaining his focus was the key throughout the match: “[I] felt very good on court, very happy the way I played. It was not easy playing a guy like James. I had to focus from the start. I was feeling really good on the court. You know, can't complain. Everything came off the racket well. I'm very happy with myself in the end. I felt like I served 80 per cent of the time pretty well. It's tough to serve against James. He puts you under pressure because he's going for all these big returns. I managed to mix it up. I think that's what made him, you know, get pretty erratic off his returns and miss a few at the right time when I needed it. I felt like I served very well."
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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