Wimbledon 2017: ‘Bored’ Bernard Tomic represents under-achieving generation of Australian tennis
Once heralded as the future of Australian tennis, the only reputation Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios have so far developed is for tanking matches.
In a crisp analysis of Bernard Tomic, Mischa Zverev, his opponent on Tuesday, said, “He is the opposite of, let’s say, Rafa (Nadal) on the court with the intensity level, between points especially.”
Tomic barely posed a challenge for the German serve-and-volley player, going down 4-6, 3-6, 4-6 in an hour and 24 minutes in the first round at Wimbledon. He wasn’t evidently putting in enough effort to make a match out of it, and later admitted that he was “bored” on court.
“It was definitely a mental issue out there,” Tomic said in his post-match press conference. “I felt a little bit bored, to be completely honest with you.
“I’m 24. I came on tour at 16, 17. I have been around and feels like I’m super old but I’m not. I’m still 24 and it was tough to find motivation out there. I know I have to work hard. For sure, I don’t do the right work but I feel holding a trophy or doing well doesn’t satisfy me anymore. I couldn’t care less if I make a fourth-round US Open or I lose first round. To me, everything is the same.”
There was already a social media storm brewing over Tomic’s lack of enthusiasm during the match against Zverev, with one man tweeting for the player to be deported. Tennis legend and nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova lay into Tomic for his attitude.
“It’s disrespectful to the sport, it’s disrespectful to the history of the sport,” she said. “If you can’t get motivated at Wimbledon it’s time to find another job. The spectators, they paid good money ... they spend good money to come here and watch Wimbledon and the guy shows up and doesn’t really show up, doesn’t try. He can’t really be bothered. Just stay home.”
Here’s what Pat Cash told the BBC: “I don't think Bernie by a long shot represents everybody, Australian players," Cash told the BBC. He can do a lot worse than that to ruin the image that we've created. But a lot of ex-players are cringing, Aussies, especially the guys who started this pro circuit. We wouldn't be here without these guys.”
Tomic’s comments proved to be a tipping point, and unfortunately a representation of the under-achieving generation of Australian tennis. On Tuesday, Tomic led the Aussie exodus out of Wimbledon — six men had entered the singles main draw and all of them fell in the opening round, making it a first first-round whitewash for Australia at the grass court Slam. Only two of them — Thanasi Kokkinakis (who lost to Juan Martin del Potro) and Andrew Whittington (who was beaten by Thiago Monteiro) — showed some resistance and pushed their matches to the fourth set.
It is quite a drop for a country that has given tennis legends like Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall. The last Australian man to win the Wimbledon was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. A hard-working, uber-competitive player himself, Hewitt was a sort of a precursor to Nadal. He had the spirit of a terrier and never stopped snapping at the heels of bigger, more-talented players. Hewitt has two Grand Slams to show for his effort.
We know how seriously the Australians take their sport. They are hardy and competitive; the cricket team having developed a reputation of being a little too competitive.
Then there are Tomic and Nick Kyrgios.
Once heralded as the future of Australian tennis, the only reputation the two have so far developed is for tanking matches. While Tomic, also known as ‘Bernard, the Tank Engine’, was accused of giving up at the Madrid Open last year, when he tried to play match point by holding the racquet upside-down, Kyrgios has been suspended and fined by the ATP for tanking, essentially not trying hard enough. In 2015, Kyrgios seemingly stopped attempting to return Richard Gasquet’s serves and was booed by the ever-proper Wimbledon crowd for it.
They slouch around courts, rant and rave against authorities, umpires and opponents. They even squared up against each other when Tomic accused Kyrgios for faking illness to pull out of the Davis Cup tie against USA in March last year. The rebels without a cause are not going down well in an era where Roger Federer and Nadal have set the etiquette standards. More importantly, they don’t have the results to back up their behaviour. You need some amount of success to be even labelled a maverick.
Kyrgios has done pretty much nothing since beating Nadal at Wimbledon in 2014 and making it to the quarter-finals. Tomic, once a junior Australian Open champion, has fallen from No 17 in the world in 2016 to a current ranking of 59. But they still feel they are entitled to the prizes and privileges that come with being a professional tennis player.
On Tuesday, when Tomic was asked if he would give up the first round loser’s cheque of 35,000 pounds for not really turning up for the match, the Australian said, “Well, if you ask Federer to give back $500 million, would he do that or not?
“We all work for money. At 34, maybe I can donate to charity. If you ask Roger if he’ll do it, I’ll do it,” he continued. Class, as well as logic, has taken quite a sound beating here.
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