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There are two kinds of players: those who thrive on pressure and grow bolder when the big moments present themselves, and others who feel the weight of expectation and crumble when they need to stay strong.

Then there's Bernard Tomic.

There's no denying the 21-year-old Queenslander plays his best tennis at home. In Australia, Tomic has risen to the occasion more than once. Down two sets to love in searing heat versus Fernando Verdasco? No problems. First ATP final? Easy.

But away from the safety of home, Tomic’s results haven’t featured as many Ws as he’d like.

If the tour was predominantly played in front of his home crowd, Bernie T would be knocking on the door of the top 10. Sadly for Tomic, it's not, and the reality is he's ranked No.57 in the world.

Unseeded, Tomic threw himself at the mercy of the draw and it wasn't kind – world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the opening round.

Tests don't come any bigger than playing the world's best, and under the Rod Laver Arena microscope, Tomic will be tested in a way he never has before.

"It's going to be difficult, for sure. Going to have to be one of those days where I can play my best," said a jovial Tomic when asked his thoughts on what lay ahead.

"He's going to be very intimidating to play.  You just have to stay with him. I mean, he is human. He does [make] mistake[s], obviously not as much as the other players, but I've got to play very, very good tennis to have any chance.”

In years gone by, Tomic was not expected to win these matches. The last time these two played here was in the third round in 2011 – just making it that far as a 19-year-old was a good enough achievement for Tomic.

Losses to Roger Federer in the fourth and third rounds in 2012 and 2013 respectively were also seen as honourable efforts for the developing Tomic.

But those days are behind him.

While he is not expected to win on Tuesday, anything less than a fighting effort could raise some difficult questions for Tomic and his on-court work ethic.

"I sort of use it sometimes as a weapon. I sort of zone out for a few games, try to use it to my advantage to come back in," explained Tomic.

"Effort is only between you and you. You can't judge effort. No one can judge effort, I think. Only the person that's doing the task or the sport they're playing can judge effort."

Former world No.1 and Australian Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter is one who has spent a lot of time with Tomic, and has made his own judgement.

"Bernie in the past has been a little bit up and down in these matches, has these lulls. He can't afford to have them," said Rafter.

"If Bernie plays and keeps that intensity, he's going be to be very difficult to beat.  Rafa knows that. Rafa is not happy with his draw. Bernard is not seeded, but he's a potential seed, for sure. He's one of those guys you don't want in the draw."

The men’s top seed hasn’t lost in the first round since Lleyton Hewitt was upended by Alberto Martin in 2002. If Tomic was ever going to make a statement about his intent, this is his chance.

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Post-Tournament
Sunday, 20 April 2014
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