Melbourne, Australia, 21 January 2012 | AAP
Bernard Tomic is confident a controversial umpiring call which went his way in the fifth set of his epic Australian Open win over Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov was the right one.
A little luck and a lot of grit lifted the Australian teenager into the second week of the Open and a dream showdown with Roger Federer as he outstayed 13th seed Dolgopolov 4-6 7-6 (0) 7-6 (6) 2-6 6-3 on Friday night.
One of only two Australians left in the singles draw, Tomic will now take on Federer in the fourth round on Sunday.
But the match against Dolgopolov swung on controversy after Tomic benefited greatly from an umpiring decision in the opening game of the fifth set, in which he appeared to challenge a call mid-point.
His raised racquet and eyebrow went unnoticed, he won the point and the game, leaving Dolgopolov fuming and playing catch-up for the rest of the set.
But the 19-year-old denied he challenged the call.
“I looked at the ref, but I didn’t say a thing, I continued to play,” Tomic said.
“In my mind, I didn’t challenge.”
Tomic later broke the Ukrainian to go 3-1 up in the set, and never relinquished his advantage.
And he was certainly good value for a win he credited to an electric crowd atmosphere on Rod Laver Arena – Australian fans clearly sensing one of the most exciting prospects in years.
In a tactical match in which the players swapped slices as often as clear winners, Tomic fought back from losing the first set – and kept fans biting fingernails from that moment on.
“It was remarkable,” Tomic said of the crowd support.
“Tonight’s game there was so much support for me.
“It makes you focus, you want to win the next point.
“They made me win tonight. That’s what you need in your home slam on your home court.”
With Dolgopolov in early control, Tomic kept his nerve in the next two sets decided by tie-breaks.
But Dolgopolov then grabbed an early fourth set break of serve, before a six-minute medical timeout to attend to a back problem.
The rub-down on his back appeared to release a genie within – Dolgopolov winning the next three games to close out the set, before the early fifth set controversy swung the momentum Tomic’s way.
The result guarantees Tomic his best ever finish at the Australian Open.
He and Lleyton Hewitt, who is scheduled to play his third round match on Saturday against Canadian Milos Raonic, are the only Australians left in the singles at Melbourne Park.