Tomic Arrives

Bernard Tomic loves a big occasion. Despite sitting at #158 before Wimbledon began he’s now reached the fourth round after knocking out world number five Robin Soderling.

Tomic forehand

Soderling may well have been unwell during the match but Tomic must be given credit for handling his win like a top 10 player, brushing the Swede aside in a first set lasting just 17 minutes before seeing it out in straight sets.

BBC commentary constantly referred to Tomic’s view that his ultimate strength is finding his opponent’s weakness. That is a philosophy which will win him many matches in the future and, based solely on his third round victory, a potential major.

What’s surprising is how his record before his visit to south west London this year has been so disappointing compared to his achievements elsewhere.

The 18-year-old qualifier has made the third round of the Australian Open this year and has been to the second round of his home major the two years previous to that.

Ace of Baseline has been following Tomic since the early days of the blog’s creation (he’s the second one along on the top-right banner) and his record on the ATP World Tour has been nothing special.

His two career title successes have come on the ATP Challenger Tour and his last triumph at that level came in February last year whilst his other was 12 months before that with both coming in Australia.

Along with those wins Down Under he took the junior Aussie Open crown in 2008 aged just 15.

Perhaps age is the key. He is only 18, still eligible for the juniors and more ATP World Tour events instead of Challenger tournaments in the future will see his progress quicken.

His coolness on the show court against Soderling and his ability to come back from two sets down versus Igor Andreev in round two are good traits. He has the mentality to succeed and seems to lap up a pressurised situation.

His next match will be against Xavier Malisse and his chances of reaching the last eight are seemingly decent against the 30-year-old Belgian. We’ll learn a lot more from Tomic in that match now he’s set to be watched by more and more eyes.

After progressing further than Aussie legend and their last man to win a Slam Lleyton Hewitt, Tomic will become the new number one player from the country.

He’s actually a German-born Aussie of Croatian and Bosnian descent (if that’s not too hard to grasp) so there will probably be several countries trying to convert the flag next to his name.

History regarding his nationality has landed him in hot water in the past with his dad – who’s also his coach – threatening to force Tomic to play for Croatia, whilst an incident with Hewitt a while ago means he’s by no means a straightforward guy to predict.

Taking in mind his successful record in the southern hemisphere and the support he’ll receive from The Fanatics in the future, if he stays to his Gold Coast roots then Australia’s heir to Hewitt could be just, if not more, of a success.

The Fanatics

The Pliskova Sisters

From the Williams sisters to the Bryan brothers, tennis siblings are becoming as frequent as Novak Djokovic’s 2011 wins.

Along with that aforementioned foursome of multi-talented singles and doubles players, the Radwanska’s and Murray’s have also emerged.

And with today marking the 19th birthday of another sister combination it’s a fitting time to introduce Czech twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova.

Kristyna Pliskova Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Hailing from the small town of Louny, the pair currently sit either side of the top 200 fringes but neither has yet broken into the top 100.

Although twins, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. Karolina stands one inch taller with brunette hair (as opposed to blonde), has a tattoo on her left arm and leg (Kristyna only has one on her wrist), and uses the opposite hand to her lefty sister.

Their record at junior level is pretty sporadic. Although Karolina won the Australian Open juniors last year her only other successful Slam run was at the quarter-finals of the US Open juniors.

Early first and second round defeats at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively are a stark contrast to her achievements in Melbourne where she defeated young Brit Laura Robson 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) in the final.

Kristyna lost in the semi-finals that year to Robson but did win a junior Slam at Wimbledon six months later. First and second round defeats for her at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows show how typically in sync the Pliskova sisters are but with five ITF titles to her name and a top 200 spot, Karolina just edges out Kristyna.

But just in case you were wondering, they have played each other before; Kristyna coming out on top 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 for her only ITF victory.

No doubt there is a long way to go before the duo begin registering on the public’s consciousness. Although 19 is a young age on the surface (pardon the pun), the players who make it to the top have often already reached great heights on the professional circuit by that time.

And any suggestions that a career in doubles might suit better is squandered by their dismal ranking and failure to make an impression on the ITF circuit.

Neither have made an appearance at a professional Grand Slam thus far but this year they’ve both abandoned the juniors to improve on the senior tour.

Written on their joint website, both aim to make the top 100 this year in order to appear in more Grand Slam tournaments. Being the same age means there’s likely to be a pattern in their progression so a career in doubles could well materialise if improvements are made.

Don’t be fooled by the introduction though, a career anywhere to the level of the Williams sisters or the Bryan brothers is pretty much out of reach but they could certainly make a mark on the WTA tour in the future.

Williams Sisters Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova have a huge task matching sport’s greatest sister act Serena and Venus Williams

Sleeping Giants

Bernard TomicSince 2003, America has been awaiting a male Grand Slam winner.

Andy Roddick won the US Open on his own turf eight years ago and still remains the only real chance of adding to the illustrious legacy of a dominant tennis nation.

Roddick very nearly won Wimbledon in 2009 but at the age of 28 his chances of building on his solitary Grand Slam victory are slipping.

It’s perplexing how a country which has spawned legends such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe is running out of talent at the highest level.

It’s very much a similar story for Australian tennis too. Not since Lleyton Hewitt won Wimbledon back in 2002 have we seen the Aussies challenge at Grand Slam level.

Although not enjoying the same kind of history as the USA, with Mark Philippoussis and Pat Cash being the only other notable players in the last 30 years, they did produce tennis legend Rod Laver and the passionate sport-loving Australian public demand competitors in the Grand Slam event they annually host.

There is, though, hope that both countries could end their barren runs and it comes in the form of two 18-year-olds.

At number nine in the USA’s best ranked players and at 156 in the world’s, Ryan Harrison could be the next Grand Slam contester and take over the mantle of Roddick in two or three years.

Being an American automatically gives Harrison an advantage of great home support at Flushing Meadows enhancing his US Open chances in the process. Australian Bernard Tomic is in the same position.

Like Harrison, Tomic is currently sitting outside the top 100. On paper, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s another product of the Eastern European tennis machine churning out talented players every year but, although of Croatian descent, he is from Down Under.

That home advantage has already begun to have an effect with Tomic mustering a third round run at this year’s Australian Open.

But be warned, the teen has also gained a controversial reputation in his short career so far. He’s been quoted as saying compatriot and former world number one Hewitt was “not good enough” for him to practice with whilst his father and coach John has threatened to convert his nationality to Croatian.

That could hinder his dreams greatly as his support on and off the court wouldn’t be at the same level.

Even if Tomic and Harrison don’t make Grand Slam winners it’s crucial for both countries to encourage new talented youngsters to pick up a racket.

Currently the Williams sisters and the recent success of Sam Stosur have been keeping US and Aussie fans content but after their reign ends there’s little waiting in the wings to keep the respective legacies going.

Harrison and Tomic therefore play a more important role than just winning tournaments, they must also win over new tennis fans and the stars of the future.

Ryan Harrison loses his shirt
Youngsters Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic are the next prospects from the supposed giants of world tennis

Britain’s Rising ‘Sons’

Britain’s tennis history has a bad reputation. Constantly the press remind us it’s been x amount of years since Fred Perry became the last man to win a major title with that number currently standing at 75.

Although not as bad as the males, it doesn’t make for better reading when you look at the women’s game either. If you take a journey back through the decades you’ll find the likes of Virginia Wade and Sue Barker winning Grand Slam titles in the late 1970’s.

Now their great achievements are limited to mere captions on Wimbledon’s annual summer coverage.

Having not enjoyed any success in the womens’ singles for more than 40 years now there seems to be more of a desire to have a top ranked British female to support alongside Andy Murray.

Not since Annabel Croft has a female star emerged from the UK and even she quit the sport at the age of 21 despite winning both the Wimbledon and Australian Open juniors in 1984.

Instead Britain’s female tennis players are in effect long distant relatives. Whilst you may only see your great aunt on birthdays or at Christmas the British public only see the likes of Katie O’Brien and Melanie South once a summer as a wildcard entry into the first round of Wimbledon.

Once amongst those wildcards were Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong who have now gallantly broken into the top 100 but have a combined age of 54. Though they may have four or so more years competing at high levels on the WTA tour, the chances of them holding down a top 20 place or going on a great run at a Grand Slam are dwindling every year.

The hopes of the success-starved nation rests instead with Laura Robson and Heather Watson – the prodigal “sons” so to speak.

Since winning the Wimbledon girls’ singles title as a 14-year-old much has been expected of Melbourne-born Robson. Despite her 239 world ranking she is seen as Britain’s finest hope of repeating those 2008 scenes on the senior tour.

Watson, the third best female tennis player in Britain aged just 18, sits 108 places higher than her fellow Brit. In 2009 she won the US Open juniors which you may not know much about due to the media spotlight surrounding the potential future pin-up girl Robson.

Neither has yet won a WTA title but at the moment it’s a matter of amassing ranking points via qualification rounds and a few runs on the bigger stage.

Robson missed out on the 2011 Australian Open’s qualifying event due to injury which has also seen her position in the world rankings fall. This year she’s based in Paris with a new coach in Patrick Mouratoglou who’s seen previous success guiding Marcos Baghdatis and Aravane Rezai into top 20 players.

Whilst Robson will probably take a few months to break through properly, Watson is pretty close already.

Quarter-final runs in the Auckland Classic and Cellular South Cup this year have given her valuable experience against quality opposition and the environment of larger courts and crowds.

Should the pair’s progression continue at its current rate this year’s Wimbledon audience might be introduced something to shout about for many summers and tournaments to come.

33 Girls' Singles - Finals
Laura Robson (left) is all smiles after defeating Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the 2008 Wimbledon girls’ singles final

Heather Watson
Heather Watson at the 2009 US Open juniors final where she beat Yana Buchina 6-4, 6-1

You can follow the fortunes and thoughts of both Laura and Heather on Twitter but be sure to check back to Ace of Baseline for the latest news on the young duo.

Milos Raonic

Before I go into detail about Canada’s 20-year-old prospect Milos Raonic, watch this and imagine these scenes at Wimbledon.

As you can probably tell from the 1990’s style film quality and the rather drab serve that is not the Milos mentioned above but it’s something that we could be seeing more of in the future.

Raonic’s fans have already taken to the celebration even if the world number 37 hasn’t trademarked his wins with it.

He’s already breaking Canadian tennis records in every tournament he plays this year and half of them were set by Greg Rusedski before he decided to turn British.

In January he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open beating seeds Michael Llondra and Mikhail Youzhny before eventual semi-finalist David Ferrer ended his run despite winning the first set.

He followed this up with his first ATP tour title after defeating top seed Fernando Verdasco at the SAP Open. Verdasco was so furious with his loss that he stuck his middle finger up at the crowd. Someone had made a noise on championship point though.

To make matters worse for the Spaniard he had to face Raonic in the first round of the proceeding Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis. This time seeded second it still held no bearing on his opponent as Raonic won in three sets.

Only Andy Roddick could stop Raonic from claiming a second successive tournament victory as the American produced a spectacular match point shot to win 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (11-13), 7-5.

Raonic is now the greatest male Canadian tennis player ever. No other man from said country has ever been as high in the rankings as Raonic right now.

His fellow compatriot Aleksandra Wozniak reached 21 in the world previously but has now dropped outside the top 100.

Raonic must avoid a similar dramatic drop but this looks unlikely based on the views of tennis icons – John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova just to name-drop.

However if any of you think he’ll do a Greg and convert to British shores then I’m afraid he’s already nullified that idea.

“Come on Andy” it is then and maybe they’ll meet sometime in the near future. Certainly, the chances of that happening seem to be getting likelier everyday.

SPORTS: Milos Raonic rising fast at Australian OpenThe real Milos on his way to the fourth round of the Australian Open

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