As the US Open gets underway on Tuesday morning (AEST), Australian tennis’ problem child, Bernard Tomic, might be staring at his last chance to stay in the big time.
Tomic hasn’t wielded a racquet in anger since his ignominious first-round exit at Wimbledon eight weeks ago, more notable for his raw and confronting comments in the post-match media conference and subsequently in a television interview.
The 24-year-old’s ranking has plummeted to 146th, meaning he’ll be relegated to lower-tier events unless he has a couple of wins at Flushing Meadows, where he is getting a start due to his top-30 ranking at the end of last year.
It’s a far cry from last year’s US Open, when Tomic was ranked 19th in the world and seeded 17th, before meekly bowing out in the first round.
“Now that his ranking’s slipped outside the top 100, I’m hoping we see a bit of a resurgence,” player-turned-coach Josh Eagle told The New Daily.
Tomic faces a tough opening-round opponent, 19th seed Gilles Muller.
While Tomic has had no recent match practice, Nick Kyrgios heads to New York full of confidence after reaching his first Masters tournament final in Cincinnati a week ago, beating world No.1 Rafael Nadal on the way.
Now ranked 18th in the world and with top players − including 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka and runner-up Novak Djokovic − absent through injury, Kyrgios is the 14th seed.
“It’s a real opportunity for Nick,” Eagle says. “He’s just got so many weapons [including] his ability to serve really well for long periods.”
Thanasi Kokkinakis is on the comeback trail after a couple of years cruelled by injury, which saw the talented 21-year-old from Adelaide drop all the way to 993rd.
“The big thing I see with Thanasi now is he’s so motivated,” Tennis Australia’s National Academy coach in South Australia, Sandon Stolle, told The New Daily.
“Fast conditions suit him. He can serve big and try to dominate with his forehand.”
Kokkinakis made the final in Los Cabos a month ago, rocketing him to 220th.
“From a confidence point of view, he had some pretty good wins there,” Stolle says.
Federer favoured to win his 20th grand slam title
With no Wawrinka, Djokovic or world No.2 Andy Murray, five-time winner Roger Federer will start favourite, having won his 18th and 19th grand slam titles earlier this year at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
But the 36-year-old tweaked his back during the final of the Montreal Masters two weeks ago, as he lost to Alexander Zverev.
Stolle says it’s a great opportunity for Kyrgios, Zverev or one of the other younger guys.
“The thing with hard court is the stress that it puts on players’ bodies is massive,” he says.
“For Rafa and Roger, coming off clay and grass, it’s affected both of them a little bit, especially as they’re getting older.”
With Stosur out injured, Gavrilova flies Australian flag
On the women’s side, Australia’s 2011 champion Sam Stosur is still out of action with stress fractures in her right hand, which put an end to a promising French Open campaign.
She’s been usurped as Australia’s top-ranked player by Daria Gavrilova, who has risen six places to 20th in the world after winning her maiden WTA title in Connecticut on Sunday (AEST).
“She’s a great player and deserves to be in the top 20,” says Eagle, who coaches Stosur.
“I think this surface suits her because of her athleticism.”
Ash Barty has climbed to 42nd after beating Venus Williams on her way to the round of 16 in Cincinnati.
“If she gets a good draw I wouldn’t be surprised if she made a fourth round or even a quarter-final,” Eagle says.
With no Serena Williams, who is in the latter stages of pregnancy, Stolle says the women’s singles is wide open.
“I favour the bigger hitters in New York because they get so many free points.”
Coverage of the US Open starts on ESPN at 3am on Tuesday August 29. SBS will begin its coverage from the quarter-final stage on Wednesday September 6.