Talented but problematic Bernard Tomic entered the 2017 season as Top 30 player but he finished it outside the Top 100, for the first time since 2010 when he was 18! Bernard won just 10 ATP matches last year and only one after Eastbourne in June, struggling with injuries and motivation to work on his game and get back where he once was. He couldn't get a main draw wild card for the Australian Open and he lost to Lorenzo Sonego in the final qualifying round, missing the home Major for the first time since 2008. Bernard returned to action in Lille Challenger yesterday and he was beaten by world number 251 Antoine Hoang 6-2 2-6 6-4 in an hour and 28 minutes, his hardest loss in terms of the ranking since Nice 2015 when he retired against Gianni Mina who was 269th at that moment.
This was only the second Challenger event for Tomic since the start of 2014 and he will spend some time at this level if he wants to get back into the Top 100, with no ATP tournaments wild cards on the board for him in the months to come, especially not on clay where he never had good results. Hoang won just five points more than Tomic and he prevailed with a lone break in the deciding set, serving well to bring the match home and reach the second round. The Frenchman faced three break points and he got broken twice while he claimed three breaks of serve from five chances he earned in Tomic's games. Antoine rattled off the last five games to grab the opener 6-2 with breaks in games five and seven. A smash winner pushed the Frenchman in front at 2-2 and he broke again in game seven after a poor forehand from Tomic. Antoine clinched the set with a hold at 15 in game eight but he couldn't keep the same pace in set number two as Tomic broke him twice to send the match into a decider.
Bernard got the break in the second game when Hoang sent a backhand wide and he served well in all four service games to stay in front all the time. Another backhand error cost Antoine his service game at 2-5 and he was the one who had to raise his level before the start of the decider. He did exactly that, dropping seven points in five service games and never facing a break point, and he broke Bernard in game three to grab the crucial lead that gave him the match in the end. Tomic netted a forehand to suffer a break and Hoang materialized the break with a hold at 15 in game four to move closer to the finish line. Both players served well until the end of the match (the returner won two points in every of the last five games but there were no deuces or break points) and Antoine completed his triumph with a smash winner in game 10 to advance into the second round.