A serving masterclass has given Bernard Tomic hope he can score a landmark grand slam win and dump defending champion and world No.1 Novak Djokovic out of Wimbledon.
Tomic has yet to conquer any of the sport’s big four of Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray at major level entering Friday’s third-round blockbuster with the Serbian titleholder at the All England Club.
But twin victories over Djokovic at exhibition events in Perth and Melbourne, a career-high ranking and an impenetrable serving display in his 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 7-6 (7-5) second-round win over talented young Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert has Tomic believing.
“If he’s No.1, he’s obviously there for a reason. What a player he is,” Tomic said.
“But I know at my level, if I’m playing good on my day, I can beat him.
“I have played many times against Novak. I got the feel for him. We have practiced a lot of times.
“But that can mean nothing when you come on the court with him sometimes. He’s a very good player.
“I have to serve well if I have any chance of winning. I have to play my tennis, relax, and go for it really believe and really be in the moment.”
The pair have clashed once previously at Wimbledon, in the quarter-finals in 2011 when Djokovic had lost just once all season and a teenaged Tomic was seeded for the only time in his career.
After tumbling outside the world’s top 100, Tomic has returned to the world’s top 30 and is set to rise to a career-best 23rd after overcoming dizziness on London’s hottest day of the year to see off Herbert’s challenge.
“Looking back to when I played him at Wimbledon, I was serving very well,” Tomic recalled.
“I had him on the back foot in the third set, even 4-1 up, I think, and I lost that 6-4.
“I think I was 5-4 in the fourth against him, a few points away to make the fifth set. I had chances.”
If he can replicate Wednesday’s serving display, when he landed 72 per cent of deliveries and barely faced a break point, Tomic and Djokovic both know the Australian No.1 can challenge the top seed.
“This is the surface that he loves playing the most on. So it’s going to be a difficult match,” said Djokovic, remembering the “four tough sets” four years ago.
“So I’m not expecting anything easy there.”
Tomic showed true grit to reach round three without dropping a set.
The 22-year-old withstood 21 aces from the French qualifier to close out his second-round match after needing medical treatment late in the second set.
“I was very dizzy out there,” Tomic said.
“I didn’t sleep well yesterday and the day before, probably getting three or four hours of sleep.
“I was fatigued and starting to get dizzy out there with the heat hitting me. It was tough, so I had to slow things down. I had to catch my breath.
“It was not that easy, that situation for me in the second. I was feeling bad.
“Hopefully I can get a good night’s sleep in tonight. I just haven’t been sleeping well here. It’s been too hot.”