Tomic making a racket at Open qualifying

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  • Bernard Tomic
    Bernard Tomic
    Australian tennis professional

The annual Bernard Tomic summer sideshow is up and running - but not like tennis fans have seen before.

One of the sport's most controversial and colourful characters is again the headline act in Australian Open qualifying which starts on Monday at Melbourne Park.

Tomic, a one-time world No.17 who has plummeted to 260th in the rankings, was the only Australian out of 20 hopefuls to successfully qualify for the Open last year.

But while the men's qualifying event was held in Doha last year because of the global pandemic, Tomic is back at Melbourne Park in 2022.

And back with a bang.

Sporting a new peroxide-blond hairdo, Tomic has employed a social media manager to help the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist "take fans behind the scenes to experience the amazing atmosphere of the AO and my journey".

Once anti-social media, Tomic has embraced the limelight - the good, the bad and the ugly - since dating so-called influencer and OnlyFans star Vanessa Sierra.

The 29-year-old has moved on from Sierra but embraced Instagram to post training videos, pep talks, to cheekily call out countryman Nick Kyrgios and to generally declare to the tennis world that he's on the way back.

Tomic's latest video post takes fans into the Melbourne Park locker room, showing off his locker next to Rafael Nadal's.

Tomic, though, will need to up his on-court game to stick around, once again needing to win three straight matches to make the Open main draw for the 12th time.

But the former Australian Davis Cup star has produced some of his best tennis at his home slam.

Since becoming the youngest player, at 16 in 2009, to win a men's main-draw match at the Open, Tomic has made the second week three times and reached the third round on four other occasions.

Between 2010 and 2017, his only Australian Open losses came against Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych.

But, despite boasting of supreme new fitness levels after linking with Gold Coast coach Cole Smith two months ago, the young veteran enters 2022 qualifying without a win in seven months.

In fact, Tomic hasn't won a set since a first-round qualifying victory at Wimbledon last June.

Since then, he has suffered five consecutive heavy defeats, including a 6-1 6-2 drubbing at the hands of world No.418 Alexis Galarneau, a 6-0 6-1 loss to Quentin Halys and a second-set retirement in his most recent match in Kazakhstan qualifying in September.

Tomic faces a tough test in his opening qualifying match against Roman Safiullin, the unlikely star of Russia's run to last week's ATP Cup semi-finals in Sydney.

Matt Ebden, Jason Kubler, Andrew Harris, Marc Polmans, Max Purcell and wildcards Edward Winter, Akira Santillan, Philip Sekulic, Rinky Hijikata, Li Tu, Tristan Schoolkate, Dane Sweeny and James McCabe are the other Australians in the men's qualifying draw.

Arina Rodionova, Ellen Perez, Lizette Cabrera, Jaimee Fourlis and wildcards Seone Mendez, Destanee Aiava, Zoe Hives, Kimberly Birrell, Alexandria Bozovic, Abbie Myers, Catherine Aulia, Taylah Preston and Talia Gibson are contesting the women's qualifying event.

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