Bernard Tomic hopes his “top-20” pedigree will be enough to secure an 11th appearance in the Australian Open draw and ultimately revive his flagging tennis career.
The fallen star is two victories from a ticket to Melbourne Park after battling for more than two hours to win his first-round qualifying match in Doha.
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Fetching his own balls without ball kids and playing before no crowds, a fully-focused Tomic outlasted Slovakian Jozef Kovalik 6-4 3-6 6-4 in a sweat-soaked baseline grind on Monday night.
Australia's one-time World No.17 broke Kovalik in the first and last games of the epic encounter and fought many mental and physical demons in between.
Without a top-level tour win in 18 months and having earned just $US23,684 during his COVID-ravaged 2020 campaign, Tomic has plummeted to No.228 in the rankings.
But the 28-year-old showed no signs of the back injury that forced his retirement from a UTR match in Brisbane last month as he overcame an opponent ranked almost 100 places above him.
“I'd love to qualify for the Australian Open. I've played so well there in the past 10 years,” Tomic said.
“A few times I've made the third round, three times the fourth round. So it's been an unbelievable tournament for me.
“I hope I get my chance in the draw. So I'll try. I haven't played much tennis. I only started practising a couple of months ago so there's not much to expect.
“I'll try my best.”
Once derided as “Tomic the Tank Engine”, the dual grand slam junior champion and 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist confessed to doing little training between March and September last year as coronavirus forced much of world sport into shutdown mode.
“But the last couple of months were good,” he told AAP.
“I'm not the type of guy who's going to train five or six hours a day.
“I never needed to. I did a lot of hours on court when I was young and that sort of built my game to where I was.
“It's more about concentration and doing the right things and keeping your head straight.
“If my head's there and I'm focused, I'm always a top-30 player, (top) 20 player and even (top) 10.
“So I've got to do the right things. I have a chance here so I'll be focused for sure.”
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) January 11, 2021
Successful day for Aussies at qualifying
Tomic crowned a hugely successful second day for Australia's men's qualifying hopefuls.
He next faces young West Australian Tristan Schoolkate, who beat Argentine Guido Andreozzi 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.
Andrew Harris, a 6-4 5-7 6-3 winner over Belgian Davis Cup stalwart Ruben Bemelmans, John-Patrick Smith, who beat Paolo Lorenzi 7-5 6-1, Dane Sweeny, a 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-3 victor over Marius Copil, and Max Purcell, 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-3 over Hugo Baston, also progressed.
But Olivia Gadecki was the only Australian winner in day-two action of women's qualifying in Dubai.
The Gold Coast teenager staged a spirited fightback to down Belgian Lara Salden 2-6 7-5 6-3 as several of her more-fancied compatriots bowed out to higher-ranked foes.
Storm Sanders lost 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to Slovenian top seed Kaja Juvan, Alexandra Bozovic succumbed 6-3 6-4 to Belgian third seed Greet Minnen and Abbie Myers went down 6-2 6-3 against former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard.
Fellow Australian wildcards Ivana Popovic, Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz and Seone Mendez also lost.
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