Bernard Tomic has been handed the sort of draw in French Open qualifying that a grand slam veteran could do without – against a brilliant 16-year-old boy from Paris with absolutely nothing to lose.
The mercurial 29-year-old Tomic, who’s among 12 Australians trying to battle through three qualifiers this week to earn themselves a place in the main draw, will tackle the gifted youngster Arthur Fils in the first round on Monday.
The local kid Fils has been given a wildcard by organisers because they’re so excited about the youngster who won the Orange Bowl 18s-and-under event in Florida in December.
Little wonder, considering that Fils follows the likes of John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Dominic Thiem as a winner of that event.
Since he qualified for the Australian Open and reached the second round, Tomic has been slogging around Europe without a great deal of success in ATP Tour qualifiers and Challengers.
Yet his efforts in these smaller events demonstrate that Tomic, who’s been criticised in the past for not having his heart in the sport, is still making the sacrifices to try to battle into his 39th grand slam main draw after a dozen years.
Once considered a bit of a prodigy himself, he’s now No.213 in the world and is up against a boy who, having not even broken into world’s top 1,000 yet, can just go out and play with freedom.
Australia is guaranteed one man in the second round of qualifying as the nation’s No.8 Marc Polmans meets No.9 Alex Bolt on Monday, with the winner set to face Tomic if he can get past his teenage hurdle.
With the draw having been made on Sunday, 25-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, fresh from his Challenger tour triumph in Italy a day earlier, will step up his burgeoning comeback with a tough opener on Tuesday against American No.9 seed Mackenzie McDonald.
Melbourne’s Arina Rodionova, who enjoyed her best grand slam performance at Roland Garros when reaching the third round six years ago, will kick off the Australian challenge on Monday against India’s Ankita Raina while Ellen Perez faces Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.