John Newcombe is backing former quarter-finalist Bernard Tomic to cash in on his soaring ranking and vastly improved fitness to make another big Wimbledon charge.
Newcombe also believes Nick Kyrgios can overcome a disrupted build-up and once again cause some carnage at the All England Club when the grasscourt grand slam gets underway on Monday.
The three-times champion says Lleyton Hewitt is also capable of reaching the second week in his Wimbledon swansong and he isn’t discounting a run from teenage gun Thanasi Kokkinakis either.
Newcombe, though, is most excited about Tomic’s prospects following the 22-year-old’s transformation in 2015 from an erratic and flaky performer to Australia’s top-ranked and most reliable player.
After a rough claycourt campaign, Tomic rolled into his seventh quarter-final of the year immediately after moving onto his preferred grasscourt surface in Stuttgart, only losing in three sets to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.
“You take out the top four or five players and Bernie’s capable of matching it with any of them,” Newcombe told AAP ahead of Wimbledon’s seedings announcement on Wednesday.
“Based on Bernie’s performances so far this year, it looks as if he’s in very good shape physically and that’s a key thing for his game.
“He’s a big fella and if he’s not really fit, he finds it hard to play up near the baseline because he’s not quick enough yet moving from right to left.
“That causes him to play from three metres behind the baseline. That makes it very hard to win from there.
“So given he looks to be fitter, he’ll be able to play more up in the court and he should do quite well. He’ll be quite difficult to beat.”
The 29th-ranked Kyrgios will be seeded for the first time and Newcombe isn’t overly concerned about the explosive youngster’s lack of match practice.
Apart from splitting with long-time coach Todd Larkham just days out from Wimbledon, Kyrgios has been troubled by an elbow injury, while illness forced the 20-year-old’s withdrawal from this week’s Nottingham Open.
“He seems to be able to pick it up pretty quickly and he’s got some big guns and if they’re firing, he’s pretty hard to beat,” said Newcombe, who expects 34-year-old Hewitt to go out with a bang.
“Lleyton hasn’t had a lot of matchplay and that counts.
“But he is one of the most capable grasscourt players out there, so given the right draw I could see him getting through a good few rounds.”
Despite his optimism, Newcombe the realist suspects Australia’s 13-year title drought since Hewitt reigned in 2002 will continue for a little longer yet.
“I don’t think these young guys are ready to contend for the title yet,” he said.
“It’s been a pretty meteoric rise for Kyrgios. If he kept going and stays injury-free and does all the right things, in 12 months, two years he could be contending.
“Thanasi has shown everyone that he’s a very capable young bloke and he’s got a big game and he’s constantly learning at every tournament he plays.
“But he is probably two years away from being an honest contender if he keeps improving.”
Already assured of at least 13 players in the men’s and women’s singles draws, Australia also has eight players contesting the qualifying events this week.
John Millman and former Wimbledon junior champion Luke Saville both survived the first of three rounds of qualifying on Monday.