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Can Bernard Tomic bring back glory?

WIMBLEDON, England -- Australia has a history at Wimbledon as smooth and rich as the 1,800 gallons of cream they pour on the strawberries each fortnight.

The list of champions at the All England Club is long: Rod Laver, Margaret Smith, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Evonne Goolagong, Pat Cash and, most recently, Lleyton Hewitt.

But it's been nine years since that last Down Under championship. And if you think all the commotion about American tennis woes is shrill, well, the folks in Australia are beside themselves. Good news to report, though: Help is on the way. In fact, it might already be here.

Bernard Tomic is ranked No. 158 in the world, but don't let the bare number -- or the lean frame and that baby face -- deceive you. For some time, he has been viewed as a prodigy-in-the-making, and now here at Wimbledon, he seems to have arrived.

Tomic, only 18, nearly lost his first-round match in qualifying. Now, he's into the quarterfinals Monday following a definitive 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Xavier Malisse.

Can Tomic bring back the glory of Australian tennis?

"I'm trying," he said, smiling. "I'm trying, yeah. I think I can do it."

It has been a quarter-century since we've seen someone so precocious on this stage. Tomic is the youngest quarterfinalist on the men's side since red-headed, red-cheeked Boris Becker won the title as a 17-year-old in 1986. Tomic has astonishing diversity in his game for one so young. His tactics are unusually thoughtful and his big serve and flat strokes are ideal for these grass courts.

Since coming back from the brink in qualifying against Sebastian Rieschick of Germany, Tomic has been fearless. He was down two sets and 0-2 to Igor Andreev in the second round and won going away. In the third round he crushed No. 5 seed Robin Soderling in straight sets; Soderling blamed an adverse reaction to painkillers for a foot injury that left him dizzy. Against Malisse, Tomic made it nine straight sets in the teeth of one of the world's toughest tournaments.

"Two different wins," he said, referring to the Soderling match. "I mean, then I beat a much higher ranked player. But today I was playing for a big spot. They're both unbelievable achievements."

Tomic has now won seven singles matches in 15 days -- more than anyone.

In the critical moments, Malisse -- who is a dozen years older than Tomic and a former Wimbledon semifinalist -- started rushing and ultimately lost his composure. When Tomic served out the second set, Malisse furiously slammed his racket against his foot five times before it finally broke.

Age has been an emerging theme on the men's side. Half of the 16 men in the fourth round are aged 29 or more. At 22, Juan Martin del Potro is the second-youngest player -- the same age as Rory McIlroy when he won the U.S. Open. But what to make of Tomic, who is four years younger?

He's awfully well-traveled for a teenager, too. Tomic was born in Stuttgart, Germany, to Croatian parents but moved to Australia as a very young child to avoid the turbulence of war. He started playing tennis at the age of 7 and, very quickly, became a force.

Three years ago, Tomic became the youngest winner of the Australian Open junior boys title at the age of 15. He won the U.S. Open juniors the next as well, and won a round in the main draw of the Australian Open at the age of 16. This year, he won two matches in Australia and broke Rafael Nadal's serve twice before losing in the third.

Tomic, who lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, is coached by Mario Tudor, who worked with 2011 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic near the end of his career. Composure might be his biggest weapon. After beating Soderling, although he was clearly ecstatic, Tomic was remarkably restrained. He acted like he'd been there, which suggests he will remain for a long, long time.

Could he pull a Becker and (gasp) win this thing?

"Three matches away," Tomic said. "Wow, that's a big question. Well, anything is possible. I wouldn't be sitting here now in the quarters, let alone think I'm in the quarters. I could be talking to you right now in four days, I don't know, or I could be talking to you again. This could be my last time."

He has already supplanted Hewitt, after an 11-year reign, as No. 1 Aussie. His ranking will zoom more than 80 spots Monday to around No. 72.

Tomic will play his sometime-hitting partner, No. 2-seeded Novak Djokovic, on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. They've practiced about a dozen times, including a one-set test before the tournament.

"He destroyed me," Tomic said, smiling. "Things are not looking good for me, but hopefully he destroyed me then and not on this game on Wednesday."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.