Tomic one win from French Open main draw berth
BERNARD Tomic is one win away from penning one of sport's great redemption stories after storming into the final round of French Open qualifying in Paris.
Tomic's impressive 6-3 6-1 victory over rising Brit Jay Clarke booked Australia's fallen tennis star a date with destiny on Friday with Portugal's Goncalo Oliveira.
Few would have predicted after his humiliating failure to qualify for his home grand slam in January - and subsequent appearance on reality TV and rankings plunge to outside the world's top 200 - that Tomic would rebound so spectacularly on the European clay.
But after winning six of his past seven matches on the red dirt, his best ever run on his least preferred surface, the one-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist is now tantalisingly close to a spot in the French Open main draw.
Overlooked for a wildcard at the season's first two majors, exiled from the Australian Davis Cup fold and dumped by his racquet sponsor after his lame Wimbledon showing last year, Tomic had his polarising coach and father John in support on Roland Garros's outside court six on Wednesday.
Concerned pre-match that his battered body might not hold up after so much tennis in recent weeks, Tomic looked in trouble early against Clarke, a teenage whiz recently snapped up by IMG.
The fatiguing Queenslander was staring down break points at 2-2 in the opening set.
But he escaped and nudged ahead 4-2 after Clarke gifted him a break with a loose game from 30-0 up on serve.
It proved the only break of 46-minute dogfight of a first set. Relieved and growing in confidence, Tomic only needed half as long to nab the second - and the match - to be Australia's lone men's qualifying survivor. Playing just his second match in five weeks, an underdone Thanasi Kokkinakis was gallant in a 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-2 second-round loss to Estonian brick wall Jurgen Zopp.
"The guy's missed one first serve in about two hours," Kokkinakis moaned during the defeat.
Kokkinakis has been training at the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy in the French riviera since injuring his knee in a freak on-court fall at last month's Monte Carlo Masters.
But not even the presence of Serena Williams' esteemed coach in his courtside box could inspire the 22-year-old to victory.
One of only two players this year to topple Roger Federer, the luckless South Australian plans to return to Mouratoglou's base to build his fitness for the looming grass-court season.
Exciting youngster Akira Santillan also bowed out in three sets, 6-1 3-6 6-0 to French wildcard Alexandre Muller.
Earlier on Wednesday, 20-year-old Lizette Cabrera saved Australia's women from a qualifying wipe-out with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over Japan's Junri Namigata. Cabrera must win two more matches to join Ashleigh Barty, Daria Gavrilova, Samantha Stosur, Ajla Tomljanovic and Isabelle Wallace in the Open main draw. But teenage ace Destanee Aiava, Arina Rodionova, Olivia Rogowska and Priscilla Hon all bombed out in the first round of qualifying.
Aiava collapsed from a set and a service break up in a 2-6 6-3 6-3 defeat to China's Fangzhou Liu.
Rogowska and Hon also squandered one-set leads.
Rogowska succumbed 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 to Liechtenstein's Kathinka Von Deichmann, while Hon went down 0-6 6-2 6-4 to Italian Deborah Chiesa.
Rodionova lost 6-3 6-4 to local wildcard Harmony Tan.
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