Tomic ready to step up after Hewitt retirement

LLEYTON Hewitt has left some very big shoes to fill in Australian tennis.

And one man who has been a candidate for that role for the past decade will be in action against fellow Aussie John Millman in a third-round match at Melbourne Park today.

Bernard Tomic has promised plenty since he first picked up a racquet at age seven, including the pronouncement before he started out on the ITF junior tour that he would one day be the No.1 player in the world, would win each of the four grand slams and be the youngest person to play Davis Cup for Australia.

Now 23, the Gold Coaster has just reached a career-high ranking of 17, has three ATP Tour titles to his name - the Sydney International in 2013 and the Claro Open in Colombia in 2014 and '15 - and is yet to make it past the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament.

He did fulfil his promise of becoming Australia's youngest Davis Cup player, making his debut against Chinese Taipei in 2010 at 17.

At 23, Hewitt had already become the youngest player to reach the world No.1 ranking (as a 20-year-old in 2001), had won two Grand Slams (the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon crowns), two Davis Cups and more than a dozen titles.

Tomic was about to turn 19 when he broke into the top 50 on the world rankings for the first time.

That followed a brilliant run at Wimbledon in 2011 when he became the youngest player since Boris Becker in 1986 to reach the last eight at Wimbledon, before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in four sets.

His progress has been painfully slow since, although he has been hampered by hip problems which resulted in surgery on both hips after pulling out of his first-round match against Rafael Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open.

At this year's Open, Tomic is into the third round will be the hot favourite to beat Millman who has reached the third round at a grand slam for the first time.

While Hewitt has received a hero's farewell against Spaniard David Ferrer in his final singles match on the Tour on Thursday night, Tomic was in action against Simone Bolelli, downing the Italian 6-4 6-2 6-7 7-5.

After the win he paid tribute to Hewitt who will captain Australia for the first time in the Davis Cup tie against the US in March.

"Well, I mean, he's going to be missed not just by myself but many people, many fans out there, many kids around the world," Tomic said.

"I do feel this responsibility now, especially leading into this next Davis Cup.

"He really deserves to be in that spot with what he's achieved in his career as a player and also as a person, because he truly is a great guy.

"I've definitely learnt a lot from him."

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