DAVIS Cup legend Tony Roche has tipped Australia to go all the way in the competition after Mr Cool Bernard Tomic iced the Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol in straight sets in Ostrava to set up a home quarter-final against Kazakhstan in July.
Roche, whose involvement with Davis Cup as player and now coach goes back to 1964, said the current batch of Australian youngsters in 22-year-old Tomic, 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios and 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, combined with “elder statesman” Lleyton Hewitt, 34, has the talent and draw to lift the trophy.
“I can see us winning the Davis Cup in two or three years’ time, if not this year, if we have a few matches at home,” he said.
Bernard Tomic returns the ball to Lukas Rosol.Source: AP
Roche, who won the Davis Cup four times as a player and once as coach, said Australia should be favourites to beat Kazakhstan on grass, with the tie expected to be played in a hot, northern location.
“Our boys are better suited to grass so hopefully we can have a good grass court season, especially at Wimbledon, and then go into the tie feeling pretty confident,” he said.
“Kazakhstan are obviously good Davis Cup players but all their big matches have mainly come at home, so they’re tough to beat there. We’ll respect them and expect a tough fight.”
Should Australia beat Kazakhstan they will face either Great Britain in England or France at home in the semi-finals.
Based on the class displayed by Tomic in clinching a 3-1 series win and Australia’s first quarter-final appearance since 2006, it is easy to share Roche’s optimism.
In a performance that was as clinical as it was hard-fought, Tomic showed maturity, patience and sublime touch in a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 7-6 (7-5) victory.
And while he showed little emotion on the court, after the match he was ebullient.
“This is huge,” he said. “I’ve never been in a position like this. It’s an amazing thing.
“I’ve played a lot of Davis Cup matches in the past, but that was when we were out of the world group. This is a whole different feeling and I’m very happy with what we did as a team this week.”
Tomic’s two singles wins — taking his Davis Cup winning record to 14-2 — alongside that of Kokkinakis on day one of the tie, was proof that Australia’s department of youth has well and truly arrived.
And with Kyrgios, arguably the most promising of the group, still to make a return from injury, the youngsters should be around for a long time.
If they ever require a reminder of how Davis Cup should be played, they need only look at a replay of Tomic’s performance against Rosol.
Shutting out all the distractions and concentrating on getting the over the net rather than trying for the low percentage miracle winner, he put the pressure back on his opponent with unrelenting consistency, and Rosol folded.
Which is not to say that Tomic’s game lacked flair or imagination. He mixed it up like a Gold Coast cocktail, sometimes opting for power, other times a perfectly weighted lob or drop shot.
And always, with a fluidity and grace of movement that belied the effort behind it.
Tomic showed his intent from the very first shot of the match, disputing the linesman’s call on his opening serve. He lost the appeal, but let Rosol know he was going to have to fight for every point.
Bernard Tomic defeated Lukas Rosol in straight sets.Source: AP
It was all part of the Australian team’s plan to apply psychological pressure to the Czech number one who was visibly shaken following his stunning collapse against world number 133 Kokkinakis on day one.
As Lleyton Hewitt said after Kokkinakis had come back from two sets to love to beat the world number 31, “We realised that guy gets pretty tight under pressure and that really showed.”
Rosol faced up to Tomic having lost 10 of his last 11 matches, a statistic that Hewitt seemed to be quietly reminding him of at each change of ends.
Up in the stands The Fanatics, the singing, chanting, gold T-shirt wearing travelling circus that some Australians hate and the players love, were finally able to put their stamp on the tie.
For the first two days they had been seated up in the bleachers while their local equivalent, equipped with a brass band, plastic trumpets and various sized drums, had the pole position courtside.
Try as the Fanatics might to be heard, according to Kokkinakis, the only noise that reached the players in the opening three matches was those drums, but on the final day strings were pulled and the unofficial official Australian cheer-squad found themselves seated behind the Aussie bench.