Bernard Tomic overcame a mid-match dizzy spell and the evaporation of a two-set lead to defeat seeded American Sam Querrey in five sets in his opening match at Wimbeldon on Tuesday.
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Tomic, playing masterful defence, won the first two sets in tie-breaks, then lost his way and the next two sets in less than 45 minutes. That included a protracted break during the fourth set in which he was seen wincing, blinking and stretching as though in severe pain. A trainer and doctor were called, pills admininstered, and although Tomic lost that set, he gathered himself up to blast to a 6-3 win in the fifth.

“I was starting to get really hot,” he said. “I was dizzy. It wasn’t looking good. I felt bad. I just wanted to sit down. Luckily, it cooled down a bit.”

Tomic said the fainting feeling was new to him, and unexplained. “I’ve got to get it checked out later on,” he said. “Hopefully it goes away.”

Seemingly, drama must always attach to Tomic, but at least this day, it was winning drama. Preceding him on the same court, Sam Stosur despatched the lowest-ranked player in the women’s draw, Slovakia’s Anna Schmiedlova, in straight sets.

But elsewhere, James Duckworth and Matt Ebden lost. Ebden could have expected his fate against fast-rising 12th seed Japanese Kei Nishikori, whose ambition this year is to reach the semi-final of a major. But Duckworth was crestfallen after recovering a two-set deficit against American Denis Kudla, ranked one place below him, then fading away to lose the decider 6-1.

After two days, it leaves Australia in a familiar place: Stosur, Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt through, but nobody else. Australian tennis is still awaiting the cavalry.

Tomic, at least, can be satisfied. He beat Querrey at the Australian Open last year, but that meant nothing ahead of today’s match, for he is like Tomic in that he plays an arrythmic game, consisting of winners – 79 today – or errors – 43 of those. Tomic had less of both, and so can be said to have won because he was the steadier player, a rare twist. But the average rally was fewer than three shots, and the whole match lasted less than two-and-a-half hours, the blink of an eye for a five-setter.

Certainly, Tomic held his nerve when it mattered in the first two sets, then was able to lift his game again at the climax, albeit in something of the “beware the sick golfer” mode. Both can be seen as signs of maturity. His next opponent, veteran American James Blake, will test it in a different way.

For both Stosur and her opponent, this was a case of having to start somewhere.

For Stosur, a big tournament almost always begins with a player ranked many places below her, against whom she can settle her nerves and dust off her game. For Schmiedlova, an 18-year-old Slovakian who is still at school and made this draw only as a lucky loser from qualifying, Stosur represented the highest-ranked player she has met yet, and a chance to begin to make a name more distinctive than one that starts with Anna and ends with ova.

In the end, Stosur’s 6-1, 6-3 win served its purpose. Schmiedlova is of a type, lean, leggy and severely middle European. Since women’s tennis also became a power game, teenagers rarely impose themselves. Mostly, Schmiedlova was overwhelmed by all the extra kilometres in 29-year-old Stosur’s legs and hours in the gym.

The peacable silence of a sunny Wimbledon morning was punctuated by the sound of Schmiedlova’s heavy footfall as she tried to reach yet another forcing shot from Stosur. Her second serve proved especially vulnerable; Stosur swarmed all over it. When Stosur won eight of the first nine points of the match, a rout threatened.

But Schmiedlova was not overawed. Some players look at the winner of a major as if she must know something they do not and cannot. Schmiedlova concentrated instead on herself. Her courtcraft was elegant enough to suggest that she might stand in Stosur’s shoes one day. This day, her acheivement was to force Stosur to use all of her repertoire, for which both would have been pleased.

Stosur said later that Schmiedlova was an honest enough opponent on whom to rehearse the fine tuning she must make to her game on grass. In summary, these mean a lesser dependence on her heavy topspin: a sliced second serve, for instance, and a flatter forehand at times. On grass, she now understands, it is not so much about grooving as instinct. “You just have to react to what’s coming at you,” she said.

The only nit that you might have picked was that sometimes she tried too hard. It is a let, rather than a fault. “Even before today I felt like I was playing well,” she said. “I felt like I’ve been moving better, just overall feel probably a little bit more clarity, when I’m out on the court. I obviously don’t know what that’s going to equate to, but hopefully it’s going to mean a decent tournament for me, because I do feel like I’ve been playing a lot more confidently on grass at the moment.

“I do feel like I’ve been practising probably better than what I have in previous years and able to then at least make some gains and feel like I know what I’m doing and I’m not panicked. I’m not stressed about what I’m trying to do out there.”

Stosur’s unwanted honour in this tournament is that she is the lone Australian standardbearer, the most meagre representation at Wimbledon in 60 years. The least and most that can be said after round one is that that standard still is flying.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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