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Bernard Tomic © Gallo Images

Tomic unworried by home expectations

Australian Bernard Tomic hopes to begin following in the huge footsteps of Lleyton Hewitt as the Australian No 1 tunes up for his home Grand Slam starting next week by playing the AAMI Classic in Kooyong.

The eight-man special event which begins on Wednesday gives the invited field guaranteed matches before hostilities commence at Melbourne Park in the first major of the season.

Tomic, 19, has gained some new maturity as he heads into the season, starting last week with a semifinal in Brisbane where he lost to eventual champion Andy Murray.

The 37th-ranked Tomic said that he's shrugging off home expectations to concentrate on his own game and will hope to do that for the remainder of his career.

"It's one round at a time for me. It's not like when you're younger and think about how far you might go. You have to just try and beat the guy in front of you on the day."

Tomic, a breakthrough Wimbledon quarterfinalist last summer, admitted: "There's a lot of pressure going around, but I don't worry about what's off the court. I just have fun and play my tennis, I don't worry about anything else.

"Wherever this year takes me, it takes me. I'm not thinking about the ranking - he stands 37th - It will come if I play well."

The youngest player in the field and focus of local attention will begin the relegation-promotion hit-out against 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who helped the Czech Republic to the Hopman Cup title in Perth on Saturday.

In other opening-day matches, Doha champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga faces Austrian Juergen Melzer, Canadian Milos Raonic, the Chennai champion, plays American Mardy Fish and Gael Monfils takes on veteran Andy Roddick.

Winners advance while losers drop to a relegation bracket in the four-day tournament.

Tsonga lifted the eighth title of his career as he beat Monfils in Doha. The No 6 and Australian Open finalist from 2008 said he's ready for the major.

"I won in Doha, I feel good. I hope I can play well here. This is such a good preparation for the Australian Open.

"Even with the top four players (Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray) all on good form, the rest have chances. "If I thought that those guys were the only ones who could win major events, I'd stay home and watch on TV instead of playing."

Roddick is the veteran of Kooyong, playing for his fifth time and the winner of three titles at the tune-up. The 29-year-old drew a laugh as he showed off a new Mohawk haircut. Joking that "I only have a few more years of hair anyway, so I might as well have fun with it.

"I've always enjoyed the event," said the 16th-raked American. "When I decided not to play last week, the choice was obvious for me to play here. I worked hard to get healthy and fit, I want to give myself every opportunity to do that this season."

No 4 Murray, not included in the official programme, will get in a practise match on Friday at the club when he faces Argentine David Nalbandian in an unexpected treat for ticket holders.


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