Toxic state of Australian tennis exposed

Author
Radio Sport, news.com.au,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 16 January 2019, 8:03PM
Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt have gone from best mates to bitter enemies. (Photos / Getty)

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Bernard Tomic's beaming smile as he walked out of his Monday night press conference perfectly summed up the toxic state of Australian tennis.

He delighted in the chaos he'd just unleashed. He relished the scrutiny he'd just put on Lleyton Hewitt's performance as Davis Cup captain with his explosive allegations of preferential treatment.

"Have fun with that guys," he said to reporters as he walked out of the room after dropping his nuclear bomb on Hewitt.

His unprovoked attack shows even when they are out of the spotlight, the Tomic-Hewitt relationship is a sick, twisted, hateful mess.

That mess has now swallowed fellow Aussie stars Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Here's how it reached breaking point.

TOMIC AND HEWITT GO FROM ALLIES TO ENEMIES

Three years ago Hewitt and Tomic couldn't have spoken more glowingly about each other and their relationship.

As Hewitt made his last outing at Wimbledon, Tomic honoured the retiring great and forecast the role he could play for Australia's next generation.

"He's a true mentor, not just to me, but to a lot of people around the world. He's changed me," Tomic said. "If he can be around us as much as he can, it's going to be huge for us the next 10 years."

Hewitt reciprocated. "I've built a pretty strong relationship with Bernie," he said. "I think I'm probably one of the closer guys that he trusts now."

Bernard Tomic dropped a bombshell after being eliminated in the first round. Photo / Getty

Bernard Tomic dropped a bombshell after being eliminated in the first round. Photo / Getty

But the Tomic family started backing Hewitt in a corner the following year when they fell out with Tennis Australia over funding for Bernard's younger sister Sara, a fringe professional player.

Despite attempts by Hewitt to save the relationship, Tomic made himself unavailable for Davis Cup selection and split with the management company that also managed Hewitt's affairs.

This time last year Hewitt declared Tomic was "digging a hole for himself that he may not be able to get out of".

It came after the wayward star ventured to South Africa for Channel 10's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here after failing to qualify for the Australian Open.

The cord was essentially cut between him and the rest of Australian tennis — but it's only now we're seeing the damage it can create.

As reported by The Herald Sun this week, Tennis Australia lost control over Tomic when the two camps agreed Tomic would never play Davis Cup or Olympic tennis for Australia again.

Having reached a point where he can gain nothing — neither funding or wildcard boosts — from remaining on speaking terms with Tennis Australia, Tomic is free to speak his mind without fear of reprisal — and that is exactly what makes him dangerous to Aussie tennis officials.

CONTROVERSIAL DAVIS CUP SELECTIONS

Since taking over as captain in 2016, Hewitt has faced the impossible task of balancing the development of younger players while supporting the establishment of Kyrgios, Tomic and Kokkinakis when officials were already losing faith in them behind the scenes.

It has shown in Davis Cup tie selection flashpoints. Most notably, a report last week claimed Kokkinakis has been stroppy towards Hewitt since he was overlooked for lower-ranked player John Millman for a singles rubber against Belgium in Brussels, 2017.

Hewitt also chose to go with Alex de Minaur and Jordan Thompson for Australia's most recent Davis Cup tie against Austria in September.

Millman was rested for that tie after his run at the US Open. Kyrgios made himself unavailable.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia receives medical treatment in his first-round match against Milos Raonic. Photo / Getty

Nick Kyrgios of Australia receives medical treatment in his first-round match against Milos Raonic. Photo / Getty

Tomic used those prickly selection issues to advance his war with Hewitt and Tennis Australia.

"He doesn't put the players first, from what I've heard in the past year," Tomic said.

"He doesn't put the players first. He doesn't put Nick first. He doesn't put Kokkinakis first. He always thinks of himself and it's not good.

"He's in Davis Cup and he's doing the wrong thing and we don't want to play anymore. I hope he can get moved and we can go back to having a good captain."

Hewitt will name his squad next week for Australia's scheduled tie against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Adelaide, beginning February 1.

HEWITT'S DOUBLES DABBLES

Tomic received tentative support for his accusation against Hewitt that it is selfish for the former World No. 1 to play himself in doubles during Davis Cup ties.

He also suggested it is selfish for Hewitt to continue to accept wildcard entries into the doubles draw of events, including this year's Sydney International and Brisbane International.

He is also playing doubles at the Australian Open this week with fellow Aussie John-Patrick Smith where they were awarded a wildcard.

"Go away. I thought he'd retired, like, why are you still in tennis," Tomic said.

"Why do you still play all these doubles tournaments?"

Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia receives medical treatment in his first-round match against Taro Daniel of Japan during day two of the Australian Open. Photo / Getty

Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia receives medical treatment in his first-round match against Taro Daniel of Japan during day two of the Australian Open. Photo / Getty

Hewitt last year played himself in the doubles in the tie against Austria in September, but Tennis Australia performance director Wally Masur has already publicly supported Hewitt's decision to play himself because Kyrgios, Millman and Kokkinakis were all not included in the squad.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN WILDCARD SELECTIONS

Kokkinakis turned the spotlight back on the controversial wildcard snub he received for the Australian Open when he admitted his excessive playing schedule in qualifying was partly to blame for his shoulder injury flare-up on Tuesday.

Kokkinakis was forced to retire from his opening round match after winning three matches in qualifying to break into the main singles draw for the Melbourne Park event.

He was controversially overlooked for three players ranked lower than him on the ATP Tour rankings.

The wildcards instead went to Alex Bolt, Alex Popyrin, Jason Kubler and Marc Polmans. Kokkinakis' falling out with Hewitt was then revealed.

Hewitt's selections were somewhat justified when Popyrin and Bolt won through to the second round. Tomic, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis were all eliminated in the first round.

HEWITT'S ALLEGED CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Tomic's most scandalous accusation was Hewitt has been playing favourites with his selections for his own profit.

His wild claims that Hewitt has been promoting players tied to his own management company have since received widespread condemnation from the Aussie tennis fraternity, but Aussie tennis great Pat Cash on Tuesday declared on radio that there must be an independent investigation into Tomic's accusations.

"It's funny all these players who got wildcards under our system, I think it's guys like (Alex) Bolt … They're all under his wing so he gets a percentage of that," Tomic said.

"It's a conflict of interest and I think that's terrible. Am I right or am I wrong?

"They're all under his wing, under the management company. So it's all a conflict of interest. The more they make here, the more he takes. You know what he's doing and I think it's wrong."

Claims that Hewitt has been promoting players tied to his own management company have been widely condemned. Photo / Getty

Claims that Hewitt has been promoting players tied to his own management company have been widely condemned. Photo / Getty

According to reports, none of the players mentioned by Tomic — Bolt, Popyrin, Thompson and Polmans — are represented by Hewitt's W Sports and Media management company.

The cold hard facts, unfortunately, will not be enough to douse the flames of this feud any time soon while emotions continue to run so high.

All eyes will now be on Hewitt's Davis Cup selections next week — but the announcement seems destined to only plunge Australian tennis further into crisis.

Somebody is going to miss out. Somebody is going to be unhappy.

 

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