Shanghai Having taken a significant step towards attaining his goal of a top-16 n Open seeding with a fine three-set upset of 11th seed Richard Gasquet, Bernard Tomic will face world No.1 Novak Djokovic on Friday for a place in his first Masters 1000 semi-final.
Tomic, who recently broke into the top 20 for the first time, claimed the late-night encounter on his third match point 6-3, 6-7(1-7), 6-4 at the Shanghai Rolex Masters to reach the last eight at one of the ATP’s showcase events for just the second time.
He served 19 aces among 47 winners and did not face a break-point until the penultimate game of a match that did not start until after 10pm and lasted two hours, 13 minutes.
“It’s not easy playing a guy you’ve lost to six times from the seven times you’ve played,” Tomic said. “I had to go out there changing my game. I served very good today and I kept on the baseline; normally against him I get pushed back and it’s the worst thing to allow myself against him.
“I’m attacking on the right points and I’m aggressive on the baseline, and that’s what’s causing me to play very good and I’m serving very well on top of that. So there’s a few areas I’d like to work on over the next few weeks, but for now it’s been pretty good and I have to go for it against Novak.
“The last eight matches, nine matches, he hasn’t gone worse than 6-3 in a set … it’s amazing the way he’s playing. I know in Wimbledon in the third round I played well but I had no chances and maybe my chances will come this time.”
The Queenslander, who turns 23 next week, has enjoyed a career-best season in which he has won 39 matches, successfully defended his Colombian Open title and reached the fourth round of the n Open. He will be seeded for the first time at Melbourne Park when he returns there in January.
Thursday’s defeat of Gasquet was just his second win in eight attempts against the Frenchman, Tomic having managed just eight games in the third round of last month’s US Open. His only other win came on grass in the third round at Wimbledon two years ago.
But this, too, is significant, for Masters 1000 tournaments rank below only the four grand slams and the ATP’s annual World Tour Finals in terms of prestige. Tomic has reached just one previous quarter-final at this level, but a back injury meant he was unable to take to the court against Djokovic at Indian Wells in March.
Including a straight-sets loss at Wimbledon this year, he is 0-4 head-to-head against the Serb great, who claimed his 10th grand slam title — and third of the season — at Flushing Meadows a month ago. Djokovic has won his past 15 matches, the most recent against Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3.
“Obviously it’s the worst time to finish, so I have to try as best as I can,” Tomic said. “I’m playing Novak, the worst thing now for me is I don’t have much recovery (time), but I (will) try my best.”
The winner will advance to a semi-final against either third seed and two-time Shanghai champion Andy Murray, who recovered to beat American John Isner 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4, or No.5 Tomas Berdych, who eliminated Gilles Simon.
From the bottom half of the draw, Rafael Nadal reached his second consecutive hardcourt quarter-final during what has traditionally been the Spaniard’s least successful part of the season, beating ninth seed Milos Raonic 6-3, 7-6(7-3). French Open champion Stan Wawrinka awaits.
Thursday’s major casualty was Asian poster boy Kei Nishikori, upset in two tie-breaks by improved South African Kevin Anderson, who will play 16th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Linda Pearce is a guest of the Shanghai Rolex Masters.