We (still) need to talk about Bernie (Part 1)

Some of us are old enough to remember the turning of an LP record on a turntable.

The needle floating over the grooves would gently bounce and wave as the black vinyl spun underneath.

The docile crackling of the movement from the needle before the sound of the recording kicked in, for me, was always a comforting part of listening to vinyl.

So, why the history lesson of listening to records in a sports blog about Bernard Tomic?

Well, it’s obvious really, when you think about it, isn’t it?

We continually find ourselves in the same groove when discussing this young Aussie tennis player.

If we don’t attempt to scratch the surface, though of the many issues surrounding this complicated young man, then all we will hear is the same old record spinning in a never ending Ground Hog Day around the turntable.

We all know how this record goes.

Bernie is arrogant.

Tomic the Tank Engine.

Bernie doesn’t practice.

Bernie has no work ethic.

Bernie has a kray-kray dad.

Bernie’s kray-kray dad is best left banned from professional tennis tournaments.

And it goes on.

But, if we take the record off the turntable and give it a wipe, we may place the record back on the spindle and gain a clearer understanding of the recording embedded within.

There is no doubt that Bernie doesn’t really help himself.

And the litany of examples supporting the above statement is quite long.

A contemplative Bernie? www.tennis.si.com
A contemplative Bernie? http://www.tennis.si.com

Let’s begin with the decision to play in the Miami Masters in late March which was certainly a strange one.

Tomic was speedily thumped in 28 minutes by veteran Jarkko Nieminen. I suppose one thing we can take from this is at least Bernie will remain a pub trivia quiz fixture until some other poor bugger breaks this dubious record.

The ill fated ‘comeback’ from double hip surgery, just five weeks prior, then turned into the downright bizarre, with his personal trainer, Allistair McCaw posting comments on Facebook, that were presumably meant to demonstrate support for the beleaguered Queenslander, but really only inflamed an already fiery situation. Interestingly, these comments now appear to be deleted.

McCaw’s comments that it is the ATP and the system that are to blame for Tomic’s poor performance were ill thought out and easily disputed as incorrect.

The reality is, the ATP rulebook is not an esoteric document and is accessible, if you are so inclined. And many were.

The ATP had nothing to do with his decision to go to Miami. All Bernie had to do was turn up to Miami a couple of days before the event, do some PR and go home. No penalty.

McCaw’s comments, though, once again highlighted the often murky waters of Bernie’s relationship with the media.

Whilst it’s tempting to get stuck on the endless roundabout of did Bernie authorize these comments, know about them in advance or ask McCaw to delete them, I suspect the only outcome of this is to end up going round and round in dizzying circles of the ‘he said/she said’ variety.

McCaw’s comments were unfortunate and not at all helpful and to debate Tomic’s involvement in them is a waste of time.

What isn’t a waste of time, though, is to revisit Tomic’s relationship with the media, fans and tennis in general.

His reputation as ‘Tomic the Tank Engine’ is an unfortunate one, but not at all uncalled for. In fact, he has created this sad moniker himself.

There’s his now infamous loss to Andy Roddick at the 2012 US Open and his recent admission that he often zones out in games as a match tactic.

I have left out a couple of other examples of Tomic’s questionable commitment, as I think we all get the drift by now.

The problem is a tag such as Tomic the Tank Engine is one that is easily divvied out and yet very difficult to shake.

Cue, 2014 Australian Open.

I don’t support booing a player.

It is a reductive act that only detracts from sporting events.

But, Tomic has some serious baggage and he needs to understand that his individual misdemeanors get to a point where they start adding up and in Melbourne, the crowd were cashing in on their frustration.

As it transpires, he was genuinely and seriously injured.

And this now brings us back to what seems to be the never ending round about Tomic places himself and his audience on.

Tomic left Melbourne with no sympathy from tennis fans.

He left Miami with no respect.

So, where to from here?

Bernie in action. www.smh.com.au
Bernie in action. http://www.smh.com.au

This week the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Bernie was hitting up in his Monte Carlo base with an eye to this week’s qualifying round at the Madrid Open.

Like many sports reports, this was a speculative story as opposed to a hard news story and nothing was confirmed.

There is no doubt that many tennis fans, Australian fans included, want to see Bernie back on the court, fit and healthy.

I am one of those, although I’m sure Bernie will tell you that no one in his homeland supports him.

Should Bernie play the qualifier in Madrid?

Yes, if he isn’t injured and if he is able to legitimately play.

Bernie needs to ‘take a good, long hard look at himself’ as my father would say.

He needs to get back to 100% and give his tennis career the level of commitment that his natural talent deserves.

Anything else would continue to be a shame.


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