Denis Shapovalov was trying to be polite when asked about upcoming Australian Open opponent Bernard Tomic, but even he couldn’t help but crack a smile at the Melbourne crowd’s telling reaction to his name being brought up.
Tomic made his way to the second round of the season-opening grand slam after his first round opponent, Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, retired hurt.
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It marked the first time Tomic had progressed beyond the first round at his home slam since 2017, and was a decidedly easier route to the second round than his next opponent, Shapovalov.
The world No.12 needed five sets and four hours to topple Italy’s Jannik Sinner, and said when interviewed on court that he had no doubt Tomic would be feeling a bit more fresh when they meet on Wednesday.
However it was when Shapovalov was asked about Tomic’s chances that the public perception of the firebrand player was made clear.
“Of course it’s better to play two and a half sets but I’m going to try to recover as much as possible and get ready,” Shapovalov said, adding that he thought Tomic was ‘no joke’ before he was cut off by the crowd’s reaction to that suggestion.
Tomic’s professional career stalled after reaching the top 20 as recently as 2017, with the Queensland-born player now ranked a lowly 233rd.
Shapovalov couldn’t help but grin at the crowd’s reaction to Tomic, but insisted it would be a match that he needed to take completely seriously.
Shapovalov asked about next opponent, one Bernard Tomic.
Shapo: 'Bernard is no joke.'
[crowd erupts into laughter]
Shapo: 'I meant that in a good way, guys.'
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) February 8, 2021
“Nah, I meant that in a good way, guys, come on,” Shapovalov said.
“He’s honestly, he’s been a great player and he’s a really tough opponent. He’s got a great serve, he’s super solid from the back, it’s definitely going to be another tricky match heading into Wednesday.”
Bernard Tomic through to Australian Open second round
Tomic's first win at a grand slam tournament in two-and-a-half years wasn't enough to genuinely excite the Australian Open qualifier.
But the volatile 28-year-old was at least pleased to play some "unbelievable" tennis at times during a victory he achieved when Japan's Yuichi Sugita retired hurt on Monday night.
Urged on by his courtside "coach" - reality TV love interest Vanessa Sierra - and father John, Tomic fought back after a nervous start in the first-round affair and appeared headed for victory when Sugita took a medical time-out during the third set.
Sugita, nursing an abdominal complaint, carried on for two more games but couldn't complete the match, which Tomic led 3-6 6-1 4-1 when it was called off.
"I played very, very badly in the first set," Tomic said.
"I was kind of a little bit nervous. It was windy, it was cold. It was pretty bad.
"But the second and third was some of the best tennis I've played in a while."
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