Wildcards into the main draw of the year’s second Grand Slam, the French Open, were today awarded to rising Australian tennis players Bernard Tomic (Qld) and Olivia Rogowska (Vic).
Sixteen-year-old Tomic, the 2008 Australian Open Junior Champion, started 2009 in style with a first-round Australian Open win over Italy’s Potito Starace. He went on to push rising French star Gilles Muller to four sets in an enthralling night match at Rod Laver Arena.
Tomic came into the Australian Open with impressive performances in Futures events during the second half of 2008, reaching a quarterfinal and final in Indonesia in August, and the quarters at Happy Valley in South Australia in October.
In February 2009 he again replaced Grand Slam glamour with the slog of the Tennis Pro Circuit, winning the Maccabi Challenger with convincing performances over older and more experienced players including Joe Sirianni, Marinko Matosevic, Brydan Klein and Japan’s Junn Mitsuhashi.
Tomic is currently ranked 378, having slashed his ranking more than 400 places since January.
For the past six weeks he has been in a training block on the Gold Coast, with a focus on strength and conditioning with fitness coach Rudolf Sopko. This week he is heading to Florida, with his coach, father John Tomic, and Sopko, and will make his base at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy due to it’s proximity to major international tournaments.
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Rogowska, formerly coached by Andrew McLean and now working with Chris Johnston as a member of the AIS Pro Tour program, has also enjoyed good form over the past year. She carved more than 600 places from her world ranking in 2008 and recorded a career high this week of 329.
Last week Rogowska reached the final of the Bundaberg Pro Circuit, a claycourt event, before bowing out to Anastasia Rodionova. She won her first ITF women’s singles event in Sorrento in December and reached the quarterfinals at Mildura in February.
Rogowska, a member of the champion 2007 Optus Australian Junior Fed Cup team, also performed well during the Australian Open Play-off in December, progressing to the quarterfinals. On the basis of these promising results Rogowska was awarded a wildcard into the Moorilla Hobart International in January.
This week Rogowska is in Ipswich for the Pro Circuit event, and then she will head to Europe where she will compete in a number of events on clay in Italy and France. The strength of her WTA ranking has also given her direct entry into the French Open Junior Championships.
A recipricol agreement between the French Tennis Federation and Tennis Australia allows the latter to select two Australian players for the French Open, which starts at Roland Garros on May 24. In the past players have competed in a play-off to ‘win’ the French Open wildcards. Due to late confirmation of this agreement for 2009 from the French Federation, the wildcards were awarded to Tomic and Rogowska based on recent form and results.
“Tennis Australia is delighted to award French Open wildcards to Bernard and Olivia based on their most promising results over the past 12 months,” Tennis Australia’s Director of Tennis, Craig Tiley said today.
“Although we have traditionally held a play-off, with our players competing to ‘win’ these wildcards, we decided to focus on long-standing youth policy and award these wildcards to the best performing younger players.
“After his impressive performances during the Australian Open, his recent Futures win and rapid rise in rankings, Bernard was an obvious choice, as was Olivia, who has achieved some excellent results and is showing strong progress.
“The opportunity to compete at the French Open will be another step in the development of both these promising players and we wish them well,” Tiley said.
I guess it won't be long before he is a regular on the ATP tour at this rate.