They say that confidence is half the battle on a tennis court, and if it's true then Australian 19-year-old Bernard Tomic is half way there.
Tomic, who played last year's Australian Open with a ranking of 199, enters this year's tournament firmly entrenched in the ATP's top 50, at No. 38. Furthermore, the Queensland native is fresh off an exciting week at Kooyong where he triumphed in all three exhibitions he played, over venerable foes Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils and Mardy Fish.
After his first match with Berdych, Tomic was downright giddy about the prospects of continuing his march to the upper echelons of tennis. "You know, I've got a good shot at being seeded in the French and Wimbledon...I haven't got much points to defend and I think the next four or five months is going to be really, really, really fun."
For a young man who just recently, by his own admission, has stopped growing, he has no qualms acting or feeling like he belongs in the "who's climbing the tennis ladder rapidly?" conversation (he nonchalantly called Milos Raonic "a good kid" when asked by reporters if he'd ever practiced with him).
Even with No. 22 seed Fernando Verdasco waiting as his first round opponent today, Tomic seems undaunted. "If I'm confident, I can go a long way, I think."
"I have a good chance, the way I'm playing, to beat him."
With Tomic now supplanting 30-year-old former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt as the top-ranked Aussie, you'd think the pressure would be a serious detriment -- especially on his home soil in a Grand Slam -- to Tomic's game, but nerves don't appear to a problem thus far. They weren't a problem last year, when Tomic upset two top 50 players (Jeremy Chardy and Feliciano Lopez) en route to a third round clash with Rafael Nadal, then held his own and actually flummoxed Nadal at various points during the match.
And they certainly weren't a problem last year at Wimbledon, when Tomic became the youngest player since Boris Becker to reach the quarterfinals and took a set off of world beater Novak Djokovic when he got there.
So, what will it take to slow this young phenom down? Will Fernando Verdasco's beastly groundstrokes have the power to quash the confidence of Tomic, or will Tomic use his nuance and ability to manipulate the pace of rallies to make another veteran look feckless across the net from him?
"He beat me once in Brisbane when I was 16 up there," said Tomic, of the 6-4, 6-2 thrashing he suffered at the hands of Verdasco in 2009 in their only previous encounter. "That was when he was on his run, playing well. I think you know, the last six months he hasn't really done much."
Not exactly the feeble utterances of a kid who is new on the block.
"I think it's a good time to play him," he added.
Well, okay then.
Now that we know Tomic can talk the talk, we won't have to wait very long to find out whether he can walk the walk.
Tomic and Verdasco will be the second match played on Rod Laver Arena when play begins later today.