Bernard Tomic is no stranger to making headlines. The only problem is, it's rarely for positive reasons.
The 26-year-old Australian tennis pro is in town this week as the top-ranked player in the National Bank Challenger at the Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club.
He's looking to get his career back on track after a dismal first-round performance in Wimbledon last week, where he lost in 58 minutes to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6-2, 6-1, 6-4). It was the shortest Wimbledon match in 15 years.
Tournament organizers weren't convinced Tomic put forth his best effort, which resulted in Tomic being fined just under $74,000. It's the second time Tomic's been fined at Wimbledon. Two years ago he admitted in a post-match press conference that he was "bored" and faked an injury in his straight-sets loss to Germany's Mischa Zverev in the first round. He was fined nearly $19,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Tomic, who is appealing his latest punishment as he claims he was "unwell" after flying in from a tournament in Turkey, specifically asked the Free Press to not bring up his latest Wimbledon incident. It's been a bit of a fall from grace for Tomic, especially at Wimbledon, where he reached the quarter-finals in 2011 when he was only 18 years old.
"People already expect you to have won a couple of slams by now, but it doesn't work like that," said Tomic, who was the 17-ranked player in the world in 2016, but enters this week ranked 96th. "You're playing in the toughest era in tennis history. I mean, the guys are unbelievable. You've got to earn your right to be in the top 10 or top 20 and do well at the Grand Slams."
Perhaps Tomic would fare better at Grand Slams if he actually enjoyed the sport. In an interview with an Australian television station two years ago, Tomic claimed he "never loved tennis" and has only given "50 per cent" effort in his career. But even with his questionable motivation, Tomic’s career earnings are nearly US$6 million.
"It's just a job, man," Tomic said after a practice session Tuesday morning. "At the end of the day, most of us go to our jobs and we get over it at some time, but you got to do it. I mean, what else am I going to do? Nothing else to do, you know? I'm 26. So, I can sit on my ass or I can just keep going and hopefully finish with a stable career."
His antics have given Tomic a reputation as an unpredictable player; you never know which version of him is going to show up on the court.
"He's a little bit infamous on the tour, you know, just for his game style and how he plays and sometimes maybe the amount of effort he puts into some of his matches," said Toronto's Peter Polansky, the fourth-seeded player in this week's tournament. "But you know, he's a talented player. He's good. So, when he wants to be there and when he wants to try, he's a tough player. You can never take someone like that for granted."
Tomic isn't one to care about what the competition thinks of him, or anyone else for that matter.
"Mate, to be honest, I'm not too fussed about what people think. You got to worry about yourself," Tomic said. "Everyone's gotta worry about yourself, you know? It's an important thing. You, yourself and I — that attitude. You got to be respectful for people. You got to be nice and stuff. I think generally I'm a nice guy, but you just can't give an opinion to everybody. You just got to be you. That's the important thing."
One person who might disagree with Tomic being "a nice guy" is former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. Tomic has a heated feud with Hewitt, the captain of Australia's Davis Cup team. Hewitt claims Tomic threatened his family, which led to Hewitt saying Tomic won't represent the country at the Davis Cup again "while I have anything to do with it." Tomic, who has publicly questioned the decisions of the captain, denied the allegations, calling Hewitt a "liar."
"I mean, I've freakin’ represented Australia. I think the youngest age in history for Australia when I was 15. I think I won 19 matches and lost three. I mean, I played the Davis Cup for years since I was young," said Tomic, who hasn't played at the event since 2016.
"To me, obviously the system's messed up a bit. I mean, there's a lot of top players in Australia, Nick (Kyrgios) and so on that think the system is a bit messed up, but that's all right. I'm not too fussed about that area now. I don't care. I'm worrying about my priorities. That's not an issue. Once it comes to it, maybe in the future down the track, we'll see."
Tomic is focused on a strong showing in Winnipeg. His goal is to break into the top 60 or 70 in the world in time for the U.S. Open in August and winning this week’s National Bank Challenger would help get him there. If that doesn't happen, he likely won't be heartbroken about it.
"It's tennis. It's just a sport, bro."
Tomic will play Canadian Nicaise Muamba in the Round of 32 today.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.