Facing new jibes at his fitness, Bernard Tomic has blamed a heavy off-season training block and a “terrible” serve for a deflating first round exit at the Brisbane International.
Tomic’s Australian Open preparations started dismally at Pat Rafter Arena where he lasted just 83 minutes against eighth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer, falling 6-3 7-5 in a hail of unforced errors.
Traditionally the Gold Coaster performs well at his home tournament, but he struggled badly on serve – dishing up eight double faults – and couldn’t find his range with his forehand.
Ferrer, the former world No.3 who turns 35 next month, was far more consistent and composed to win through to a second-round clash with Aussie wildcard Jordan Thompson.
The 2013 French Open finalist even asked Tomic as they shook hands at the net if he was sick, such was the lack of energy the world No.26 displayed in some points.
Former Australian Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald, commentating for the Seven Network, also took note during a shirt change: “Gee, it looks he could be carrying a bit, Bernie. Can’t see the six-pack there”.
But Tomic said he’d undertaken a new, enhanced pre-season training block since last playing in October, and “felt very flat” and overcooked as a result.
“I felt like there is a huge possibility that doing a lot of fitness and that time away from tennis had a lot to do with this match today,” he admitted.
“I’m never going to be the fittest guy on tour. I’m 6’5” (195cm), so it’s not easy for me to be like Ferrer or (Andy) Murray or these players that are very low centre of gravity.
“I have to do something different. I have to rely on different things, obviously my serve, which let me down today.
“I feel like, like I said, I’m not going to be the fittest guy on tour, but I can improve so much more.”
Tomic noted he boasted the fourth best first serve percentage on the ATP tour last year (behind Rafael Nadal, John Isner and Nick Kyrgios) but his first 2017 display was in stark contrast.
“I think that’s what cost me – I served terrible,” he said.
Ferrer, who admits his days in the top-10 are behind him, felt Tomic just failed to keep his focus in the key moments as well as the Spanish veteran.
“He has everything to be a top-10 (player),” said the world No.21, who lost their previous two encounters.
Tomic, now to play exhibition matches in Sydney and Melbourne, denied it was a dent to his confidence heading towards the Australian Open where he made the fourth round last year.
French world No.39 Nicolas Mahut also won through to the second round after overcoming compatriot Stephane Robert 4-6 6-3 6-4, while Brit Kyle Edmond beat American qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (8-6).
Stosur suffers another early exit
Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur gave up a break in the final set to crash out of her home tournament early again, falling to world No.7 Garbine Muguruza.
In a replay of last year’s French Open semi-final, Stosur fought back superbly on Monday after losing the opening set to gain control, only to lose it again against the fourth-seeded Spaniard.
While the Queenslander has regularly failed to deliver at her home tournament, never passing the second round in seven visits, she delivered one of her better performances in falling 7-5 6-7 (2-7) 7-5.
But adding to her frustrations of a third first-round exit at Pat Rafter Arena will be the way she succumbed after being poised for victory at 4-2 up in the third.
A jittery service game allowed Muguruza to break back and then level, before showing superior composure to close out the match in two hours and 45 minutes.
Stosur cursed after she hit a simple forehand passing shot into the net on match point – continuing a seven-match losing singles streak stretching back to the second round of the US Open.