Armed with a career-high ranking, record pay day and maiden grand slam second round berth, Australian wildcard Jordan Thompson now has the opportunity to right some wrongs for his tennis idol by toppling Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic at the French Open.
Famous for destroying Lleyton Hewitt’s Wimbledon defence with a humiliating round one upset in 2003, 27th seed Karlovic presents a major challenge for Thompson, who is riding high after posting his first grand slam victory.
Hewitt was courtside for Thompson’s 6-3 6-4 7-5 victory over Serbian qualifier Laslo Djere on Sunday.
“Having Lleyton Hewitt, one of my tennis heroes, on the sidelines was unbelievable,” said Thompson, who has a guaranteed payday of 60,000 euros ($93,000).
Thompson was just eight years old when then-little-known Karlovic’s booming serve consigned Hewitt to the ignominy of being the the only man to lose in the first round as Wimbledon defending champion.
And the 22-year-old admits he will call on Hewitt for advice ahead of Wednesday’s clash.
“For sure – (Hewitt has) already said a couple of words but I’ll speak to him again,” Thompson said.
“I can remember watching (Karlovic) in many other matches but I think it would’ve been past my bedtime when he was playing Wimbledon.”
Monday’s victory was the most significant in a ground-breaking season for Thompson, who was ranked 254th in the world last year but cracked the 100 for the first time in March and soared to a career-high of 86 after downing Djere.
“(There’s) a bit of relief, excitement, all in one – I can’t really describe it,” Thompson said of his first grand slam win.
“It’s unbelievable to win a grand slam match. It’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for much more.”
He did it in fine fashion, controlling the first two sets in an impressive display before showing his fighting qualities to secure the straight sets win.
Having won an early break in the third, and seemingly in complete control, Thompson was forced to dig deep when Djere fought back to earn two set points on Thompson’s serve.
But the Sydneysider held firm to level the set at 5-5 and immediately broke his rival to set up the win.
“I was down a couple of set points (but) played pretty good on those points,” Thompson said.
“I broke fairly easily and just relaxed (and) did what I had to do.”