Tomic keeps top-10 dream alive

A world top-10 ranking is in Bernard Tomic’s sights.

In the meantime, an all-important top-16 Australian Open seeding will do just nicely.

World No.18 Tomic believes he can realise his long-term target this year after crushing France’s Nicolas Mahut in little over an hour in the Brisbane International first round on Tuesday night.

But he must overcome Czech veteran and former Brisbane champion Radek Stepanek on Wednesday night to seal a third straight Brisbane quarter-final berth and then make at least the Brisbane semi-finals to earn the prized top-16 seeding for the year’s opening grand slam.

Injured world No.9 Richard Gasquet’s Australian Open withdrawal has opened the door for Tomic to notch the all-important position in the Melbourne draw.

A top 16 seeding will ensure Tomic avoids the likes of big guns Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer until at least the fourth round.

The portents are good – nearest rival for the 16th seeding, No.17 Feliciano Lopez of Spain, crashed out in the Qatar Open first round this week.

“Obviously a very big delight that he lost first round,” Tomic laughed after the 6-4 6-3 win over world No.71 Mahut.

“I mean, I like Feliciano. He’s a great guy, but (his loss) kind of went to my favour.

“And obviously with Gasquet pulling out. Now is the big chance – it now comes down to a match or two.”

Five years after becoming a Wimbledon quarter-finalist at just 18, Tomic is full of confidence following his best year yet.

He started 2015 a lowly world No.78 but won 40 matches including a third career ATP title to finish with a new high of 18.

Tomic, 23, felt he was within reach of the top 10 in 2016.

“I feel closer and closer to them,” he said.

“Having an opportunity playing these guys the past four, five years I’ve learnt a lot.

“I know I’m there. I have to keep pushing and working and my opportunities will come.”

Tomic made the Australian Open fourth round for the second time last year.

He is the sole Australian left standing at the Brisbane International.

Former US Open champ Marin Cilic will also feature in Wednesday night’s action, taking on Australian Sam Groth’s conquerer Hyeon Chung in the second round.

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