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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wimbledon: Teen sensation Bernard Tomic blasts onto world stage

Bernard Tomic's profile page on the ATP Tour website is blank but after beating fifth seed Robin Soderling in the third round on Saturday people will be reading a whole lot more about the youngest player left in the Wimbledon draw.

The last time an 18-year-old got this far in the men's singles at the grasscourt grand slam was 21 years ago when American Michael Chang achieved the feat and Tomic has no intention of stopping.

"I didn't know that I was the (first) 18-year-old that got there in the fourth round after 21 years. You don't really put your mind to it," the jubilant Australian told reporters after his dashing display had filled Court One to bursting point.

"You really want to keep going. That's what I'm going to do," he said after his commanding 6-1 6-4 7-5 demolition of shell-shocked Swede.

Watch out Xavier Malisse. The 30-year-old Belgian reached the semifinals here in 2002 but will have his work cut out against the sprightly Tomic who took Malisse to three sets last year at the Queen's Club grasscourt tournament.

But who is Tomic, the teenager set to end Lleyton Hewitt's 11-year reign as Australian number one?

Born in Germany, he moved to Australia aged 3-12 and started playing tennis at seven before becoming the youngest player to win a grand slam junior title with victory at the 2008 Australian Open.

A year later Tomic entered the record books again, his Australian Open first round win over Italian Potito Starace making him the youngest player in the Open era to win a main draw match at the year's first grand slam.

His career, though short and already full of promise, is not without controversy either.

Hewitt spat
Tomic's father and coach John was involved in a heated exchange with the Hewitt camp over an alleged training snub at Wimbledon in 2009, and the former world number one has said he thought Tomic did not merit a place on the Australian Davis Cup team.

The scene was a far happier one on Court One on Saturday however as he swept through the first set in just 17 minutes.

One supporter wore a t-shirt with 'dunny' -- the colloquial Australian word for toilet -- emblazoned across it but there was no part of Tomic's game that reeked.

"Oo-oo-oo, oh Bernie's on fire," sang his fans as the teenager blasted his way past Soderling.

"He's good, no?," world number one Rafa Nadal had said after a third-round encounter with Tomic at the Australian Open in January.

On Saturday's evidence, the teenager is more than just good.

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