Hewitt wishes Tomic luck in Open quest - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hewitt wishes Tomic luck in Open quest

By Darren Walton 08/01/2008 06:46:01 PM Comments (0)

Lleyton Hewitt has extended his best wishes to boy wonder Bernard Tomic before he takes to Melbourne Park on Wednesday in an historic bid to qualify for the Australian Open.

Hewitt bid the Gold Coast teenager "good luck" in his quest to gain entry into the main draw of a grand slam for the first time.

At just 15 years and three months old, Tomic must win three matches against seasoned professionals to break Hewitt's record as the youngest-ever Open qualifier.

Hewitt famously qualified in 1997 at 15 years and 11 months before going on to become the youngest-ever year-ending world No.1 in 2001 and landing grand slam titles at the US Open and Wimbledon.

Tomic is far and away the world's leading 15-year-old player and ranked 12th in the under-18s, despite giving away three years to some rivals.

He recently won his third Orange Bowl title in Florida, the most prestigious junior tournament in tennis and one steeped in history.

The Orange Bowl honour rolls feature such celebrated names as Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Tony Roche and mere mortals including Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdatis.

But Hewitt said stepping up against the pros on the big stage would be another challenge altogether for Tomic.

"I don't know Bernard that much, so I don't really know how he's going to go," he said.

"He's got a pretty nice backhand. I think his serve and forehand needs a little bit of work, especially to make that jump into the senior ranks.

"But I haven't seen him hit enough before to really know. There's still a lot of very good players out there in qualifying for a grand slam, so you need a little bit of luck with the draw."

Tomic said he was thrilled to have received a wildcard entry into the Open qualifying event.

"I want to thank Tennis Australia for giving me this opportunity," he said.

"It's a great chance for me to see how hard I have to work in the coming years. I'm really looking forward to it, most of all to test myself against the best.

"I have been looking forward to this for years. It's going to be a real challenge.

"I'm going to be a "sponge" on the day and just take in as much as I can and learn from the experience."

Team Tomic had initially planned for the prodigy to bypass qualifying.

But Tomic's manager, Lawrence Frankopan from IMG, insisted there had been "no change of heart".

"We have always and always will put his development first and do what is best for his career in the long run," Frankopan said.

"He is the No.1 under-18 player in Australia and deserves a chance to gain some sense of what it feels like to play with the men.

"Age has never been a big issue here for him. He feels as long as he is competing well with the opponent that he is playing, regardless of age, then that's the level that he feels he belongs to."

Frankopan said Tomic wasn't placing a great significance on breaking Hewitt's Open record.

"As this to us is meaningless if you're not there on the podium at the height of your career," he said.

"He will play when he feels ready at this level and only then."

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