Bernard Tomic’s Latest Transgression Spells Trouble for the Tennis Star
After a shameful exit in the first round of Wimbledon, Bernard Tomic stepped in even hotter water after the match.
By Jane Voigt
Updated: July 8, 2017 • 9:56 AM ET
Bernard Tomic’s 2017 Wimbledon experience didn’t go so well.
Bernard Tomic can get under your skin. He’s a brilliant tennis player, but a punk at times. This week at Wimbledon, the punk showed up.
The Wimbledon referee fined him $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct following his first-round loss to Mischa Zverev, and his racquet sponsor, Head, discontinued its contract with the 24-year-old Aussie.
"Tomic was fined $15,000 for his comments in the press conference," an ITF spokesman said in an e-mail to CNN.
After the loss to Zverev, Tomic offered the following:
“It’s tough to find motivation,” he said in his post-match press conference. “You know, being out there playing my eighth Wimbledon already and I’m 24-years old. I’m still very young on tour.
“I just feel a little bit — I’m bored out there. And I just gotta find a sort of a way to get back and enjoy tennis again. People think it’s an amazing life. We are making millions of dollars and, you know, it’s sometimes tough mentally to compete and put yourself out there day in day out. I’m not the best character to do that.”
After the Wimbledon referee handed down the fine, Tomic responded.
“I was being honest,” he told the Herald Sun. “People are saying the fine is for calling for the doctor, but it’s not. I don’t think the fine is fair.”
Indeed, the comments were honest, as far as anyone listening could discern. But how do you recognize honesty when a player like Tomic switches and sways from what could be seen as a committed world-class tennis star to a big baby drunk on self-serving emotions? Especially when he follows up his ‘bored’ bit with this comment, “Holding a trophy or doing well doesn’t satisfy me anymore.”
This continued indifference, along with the bored image, could be what pushed Head over the edge. In a statement, the manufacturer made it clear that Tomic’s attitude in no way matched the company’s passion for the sport.
“It’s disrespectful to the sport, disrespectful to the history of the sport,” Martina Navratilova said. “If you can’t get motivated at Wimbledon, it’s time to find another job.”
Venus Williams, the oldest woman in the draw, is playing her 20th Wimbledon. And, she’s being sued for the wrongful death of a 78-year-old man caught in an unfortunate car accident in her home town, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Nonetheless, Venus has persevered and still feels privileged she can still play.
And, as Tomic said in his defense, the Wimbledon referee’s decision to fine him $15,000 could have included his admission of unsportsmanlike behavior because he called the trainer when he had no injury.
“I just thought I’d try to break a bit of momentum, to use that as my strategy, because I was just playing very bad and feeling bad out there,” Tomic said. “I tried to use something different maybe, you know, slow him down a bit on the serve. He was playing quick and we were all playing quick and he was serving well.”
But Tomic’s admission, “It was definitely a mental issue out there,” revealed more than has been recently reported. Neil Guiney, Tomic’s former coach of 10 years and the man who helped raise the Aussie wonder to the professional ranks at 17, wasn’t surprised by what happened at Wimbledon.
"It's not surprising, his career was the ambition of his father rather than Bernard," Guiney told Fairfax Media.
Guiney was talking about John Tomic, Bernard’s father and on-again, off-again coach.
John has struck his son on court for not taking direction and poor performance. In 2013, right before the Madrid Open, the elder Tomic head-butted Bernard’s hitting partner outside their hotel. It earned papa an eight-month prison sentence and a one-year ban from the ATP.
"John drove him very hard and you can also expect a result like this,” Guiney added. “[Andre] Agassi went through the same thing and came back."
But Agassi’s comeback, which included a break from the sport and then a climb up through satellite tournaments, only materialized after the American hit bottom with a drug problem. Tomic is nowhere near that essential crash point.
"It's one of those cases, someone in that state, they probably need to hit rock bottom before they can fully appreciate the position," three-time Wimbledon champion and fellow Aussie John Newcombe said via Nine’s Wide World of Sports. "Tennis Australia has programs and I understand they'll try to reach out to him to see if he wants help to get himself adjusted. I'm told by the younger players that they say he can't play more than a set and a half at full pace before he's tired. He's that unfit.
"So if he keeps going like this, he's just going to drift and drift and drift. He'd be out of the top 100 now and pretty soon he'll be lucky to get into satellite tournaments."
Tomic hasn’t been working with his father lately. Instead, the elder Tomic has been at Bernie’s sister’s side. Whether Tomic should rejoin his father is a debatable question.
Lleyton Hewitt, Australia’s Davis Cup captain and two-time Grand Slam champion, one being from Wimbledon, said in February that he doesn’t think Tomic should reunite with his father. That opinion was based, in part, after Tomic withdrew from Davis Cup competition this year, saying his schedule was too busy.
“His father has a massive influence on him,” Hewitt said via Fox Sports. “That’s probably the tough thing for me because I don’t feel like while his father is around and in the picture and involved in his tennis so heavily that he’s going to have a chance to fulfill his potential. That’s probably frustrating for me when I see it firsthand.
“I have told him and I guess that’s where it comes down to. But there’s a lot of stuff that those guys have been through. His father is a very tough person as well on the tour and off the tour and I think the demands of that on Bernie weigh him down in some ways.”
Newcombe, on the other hand, believes Tomic should get back together with his dad.
"I don't know it personally, but I understand he's not having a lot to do with his father now and it's been a very authoritarian rule and maybe his father has to come back into the picture," Newcombe said. "Maybe he'll respond to that. It's always a great shame when you see a talented young athlete destroying themselves. But it's his life. He makes his choices."
Childhood coach Guiney doesn’t directly say it, but his words imply compassion for Bernard.
"He's on a downward slide that has been going for a while,” Guiney said. “My guess is he'll keep going down. He lives in Monaco, he likes fast cars, all of that side of things.
“He prefers that to getting out and doing some hard work on the road or in the gym. You can't be a part-time fitness person and come out there. The mental side of it is that he doesn't like training. The better players put up with the pain and the struggle, but he's not prepared to.”
Tomic’s attitude, that he can come and go at tournaments as he pleases and compete at the level he feels like is delusional. He also said the following in his controversial press conference.
“I couldn’t care less if I make a fourth round at the U.S. Open or I lose first round,” Tomic brazenly said. “To me, everything is the same. I’m going to play another 10 years, and I know after my career I won’t have to work again.”
This incident at Wimbledon, combined with dozens of cases prior to this one, will influence tournament decisions, as Tomic’s ranking falls beyond No. 59 and approaches 100. He’ll then have to petition for wild cards and most likely be denied. The question, at that foreseen point, is whether he’ll compete at satellite tournaments for less prize money and fewer points like Agassi did.
Not until he hits bottom. Until Tomic can separate himself from the anguish of his father’s authority and abuse, nothing in Bernard’s life will be meaningful. The fast cars won’t fill that hole in his soul. The wild parties will bore him as much as a match on Centre Court Wimbledon. When he makes his way to that wasteland and says, enough, then Tomic has a chance to choose a path that might mean a return to tennis or another route to a completely different career.
Whatever he decides, he will have authored, which should fill him with satisfaction and confidence. Plenty of tennis players have floundered during their careers — Novak Djokovic is there now. Yet the kernel of truth missing for Tomic is choice. He can’t choose because he doesn’t know what he wants.
Going back to his father, then, is a mistake. Being beaten mentally is as abusive as being beaten with a fist. Take time off, Bernard Tomic. Find help. We hope to see you back on court when you’re ready.