Thursday, 21 June 2012
Australia's Wimbledon stocks have plummeted days out from the biggest tournament of the year.
Bernard Tomic's disturbing collapse against lowly-ranked Italian claycourter Fabio Fognini at windy Eastbourne on Wednesday followed equally dire tournament lead-ups for former champion Lleyton Hewitt and Australia's top-ranked player Samantha Stosur.
All three will arrive at the All England Club alarmingly short of match practice - without a competitive grasscourt win between them since Tomic's Davis Cup victory over Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka at Royal Sydney last September.
Only Hewitt - whose spirits were boosted by an exhibition win over world No.20 Kei Nishikori on Tuesday - could possibly look forward to Wimbledon with any degree of confidence.
Sadly, though, Hewitt is the most underdone of the lot and remains at the mercy of Friday's draw in London.
The 31-year-old wildcard - now ranked No.202 in the world after playing just two tournament matches since undergoing toe surgery in February - has no seeding protection from the big guns and could strike a Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Murray in the opening round.
It's happened so many times before that Hewitt would expect nothing less.
The luckless former world No.1 fell victim to 22 aces in a first-round loss at Queen's to Ivo Karlovic, the giant Croat who also ended his Wimbledon title defence in 2003.
Hewitt's defeat preceded Stosur's lamentable 7-6 (9-7) 6-3 first-round loss to world No.251 Kirsten Flipkins at s-Hertogenbosch, where the world No.5 was top seed and looking to regroup from her French Open semi-final flop against Sara Errani.
Tomic's 4-6 6-3 7-5 inexplicable capitulation from 5-2 up in the third set against Fognini was the final indignity for Australia's three leading Wimbledon hopes.
"I asked myself after the match - 'what happened?' I was so far up in the third set," Tomic said.
The 19-year-old's only other grasscourt outing during the brief Wimbledon build-up was a retirement with stomach cramps when trailing Tommy Haas 5-2 in the first set last week at Halle.
He confessed to being physically at "80 per cent" five days out from Wimbledon and his only consolation came in the form of generous officials who promoted the 27th-ranked Tomic to 20th seed on Wednesday.
Tomic was the major beneficiary of the Wimbledon's grasscourt seeding formula which recognised his impressive run to the quarter-finals last year.
The teenager was the youngest player to reach the last eight at London's famous SW19 venue since Boris Becker in 1986, but now he's battling to be ready to defend a truckload of rankings points.
"I've got to work hard, five or six hours the next four days, to peak where I want to be next Monday or Tuesday," he said.
Tomic's exit, plus Olivia Rogowska's second-round qualifying loss at the All England Club, left unfancied Marinko Matosevic as the last Australian standing before Wimbledon.
Matosevic was scheduled to play Belgian Steve Darcis in the Eastbourne quarter-finals on Thursday (Friday AEST) after eliminating top seed Richard Gasquet in the only positive result for Australians since Roland Garros.
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