Sunday, January 13, 2013

BEATING BERNARD TOMIC: STEP BY STEP

In his lead-up to the 2013 Australian Open Bernard Tomic has won every match he has played, including a win over Novak Djokovic during their encounter at the Hopman Cup.  Many are now picking Tomic to blaze a trail of destruction in the Australian Open, some even saying he could beat Roger Federer if they meet, as expected, in the 3rd round.

While his early form has been good leading up to the Australian Open, all players have strengths and weaknesses. If his good form continues many of his opponents will look closer at his likes and dislikes, and eventually devise a strategic plan to beat him. Here is my strategy on How To Beat Bernard Tomic, Step By Step.

  1. Don’t let the flashy winners fool you, Tomic is essentially a counter-puncher. Counter-punchers need someone to attack them and preferably with pace on the ball.

Tomic has been counter-attacking opponents that have played themselves out of position.  If the ball has the required pace and the gap has opened up, he will strike. Otherwise Tomic has been happy to rally and wait.

Players need to be careful not to over-play the rally by doing too much. Focus more on being accurate in the rally and don’t try to over-power him.

  1. Tomic needs pace to operate

Early in his career Tomic had problems with his technique.  His poor technique meant that he had trouble whenever he tried to generate power, particularly on the forehand side.  Players with this particular problem are happy when the ball comes to them with pace but struggle to generate their own power off balls that are slower.

To expose this weakness opponents should angle an off pace ball to his forehand wing during the rally. Don’t do it all the time but mix one in sparingly so that he isn’t aware that you are doing it as part of your overall strategy.

  1. Force him to hit his forehand down the line

Now that we are trying to set up a certain type of ball on the forehand side, let’s add something else that will make it even more effective. Whenever you execute the correct ball, a soft angle with less speed to his forehand side, stand a little towards your forehand side (his preferred crosscourt target option), leaving the down the line slightly open. Invite him to change direction down the line. This is called visually blocking your opponents shot.

When Tomic goes down the line off a slower paced ball he tends to get very wristy and often makes mistakes. By visually blocking his preferred option you are subtly controlling his shot options.

  1. Tomic serves well in the clutch

While my previous points are based on his weaknesses, you also need to be aware of a major strength.  Whenever Tomic is in trouble on his serve he is able to come up with a great serve that gets him out of trouble. I have not been able to detect a preference of targets, meaning countering this ability to serve his way out of trouble is difficult to neutralize through anticipation.

I would try being semi-offensive on the return.  Don’t stand too deep hoping to “see” the ball better. Due to the new breed of strings available today, players are able to get much better angles with their ground-strokes and serves. Stand closer to the baseline and visually make his target look smaller. By standing further back you are only giving him a bigger looking target.

It will be interesting to see how far Tomic progresses during this year’s Australian Open. I will be watching with interest to see if anyone works out an effective strategy to beat him