With his father banned from the US Open and memories burning of an early surrender in a second-round exit last year, Australia's Bernard Tomic ground out a five-set victory Monday.
Tomic, the Aussie number one at 52nd in the world, rallied to outlast Spain's 75th-ranked Albert Ramos 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/1), 6-3 and said he felt he had proven a point with a courageous fightback.
One year after headlines dubbed him "Tomic the Tank Engine" after he lamely withered through the final games of a second-round loss to Andy Roddick, the German-born 20-year-old was on his game, not going home.
"To turn any match around like this where I think I was probably one or two points away from being out of the tournament, being able to turn that around and find something inside to win this match, was very good for me, and I take that as confidence into my next round," Tomic said.
Tomic will next face 179th-ranked British qualifier Daniel Evans, who upset Japanese 11th seed Kei Nishikori in the first day of play on the Flushing Meadows hardcourts.
Tomic's father and coach, John Tomic, has been banned from ATP and Grand Slam events after being accused of assaulting Thomas Drouet, who had been his son's hitting partner, in Madrid on May 4.
It's a charge the elder Tomic has denied and the matter remains before a Spanish court, although Tomic ripped the ATP for rushing to judgment in the case after winning his first match at Wimbledon.
"I'm managing now," Tomic said. "It's still difficult, but what can I do? I'm trying to play as best as I can. The main thing now for me is just to keep improving. Every day I want to improve. I want to get better. That's where my mindset is at."
That, Tomic says, means becoming more independent of his father.
"I'm not looking where my dad is," Tomic said. "Of course my dad is still on my side with me and that's an important thing, but I'm trying to find myself deep down inside and become the best player I can be.
"Each day is a new stepping-stone for later in my career. I approach days differently now, so it's good."
With fitness coach Ivan Dimitrijevic in the player's box, Tomic has somewhere to turn when times get tough as they did against Ramos.
"Felt very good to come back from that match," Tomic said. "He should have got the better of me, but I found something in the end to turn it around.
"Sometimes you don't need to play really well to win. You just need to do the right thing."