Bernard Tomic has overcome a worrying back complaint to evoke memories of mentor Lleyton Hewitt in a spirited three-set win over Gilles Muller to reach the Queen’s Club semi-finals.
Tomic revealed his back seized up shortly before he took centre court late on Friday (Saturday morning AEST) for the 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-2 victory, which lifts him to a provisional world ranking of 19th – one behind countryman Nick Kyrgios.
Despite the injury Tomic dug deep and threw himself around the iconic centre court – much like two-time grand slam champion Hewitt did en route to his four Queen’s titles – to turn the tables on a tricky customer he’d not beaten at tour level.
“I was very, very scared. I was in so much pain,” said Tomic, who required painkillers as well as 40 minutes of treatment to take the court.
The 23-year-old Australian was fired up and vocal as he set up a Saturday clash with Canadian third seed Milos Raonic, who sent down 19 aces to blitz Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1 6-4, for a spot in Sunday’s final.
The match was typified by two points early in the third set, firstly when Tomic recovered after slipping over on the wet grass to force an error and snatch a break in the opening game.
Tomic then launched himself to hit an impressive full-stretch forehand volley winner which left him lying on his belly in the middle of centre court – but had Hewitt and the centre court crowd applauding.
“I think that was probably one of my best diving volleys I have ever hit in my career. I don’t know how I got to it,” Tomic said.
“I’m definitely going to watch that one on replay.”
Only Tomic came close to earning a first-set break but squandered three set point opportunities when up 5-4 on Muller’s serve.
By this point rain had started to sprinkle on centre court and while two ball girls slipped over on the grass Tomic and Muller were able to power through to the tiebreak.
Tomic gave up the opening point and angrily urged himself to “wake up” – which he did, capitalising on uncharacteristic Muller errors to grab the set.
The second set produced more of the same, with neither able to crack their opponent’s serve – in a match which had 26 aces to Muller and 15 to Tomic – until the crucial 10th game when the Australian cracked, giving Muller the crucial break at his first opportunity.
Unshaken, Tomic recovered and began the final set aggressively as he raced to a decisive 4-0 lead before closing out the match in one hour and 33 minutes.