We (still) need to talk about Bernie (Part 2)

For the second part of my discussion of Australian tennis player, Bernard Tomic I thought I’d raise the incredibly sensitive topic of his coaching situation.

It’s almost impossible to talk about Bernie and his tennis and not broach this subject.

Tomic is not the first tennis player to be coached by a parent, nor is he the first tennis player that has demonstrated that this is not an ideal situation.

The issues surrounding parents coaching their children is much more complex than simply labelling them as some crazed ‘tennis parents’.

There are many reasonable, and quite frankly, sensible arguments against this type of coaching arrangement.

The problem is, though, that it becomes almost impossible to reasonably raise these issues and then convince young players of the need to move on from the parent/coach relationship and of the need to professionalise their career with a coach they don’t share DNA with.

In many respects the issue lies in how the question is currently phrased.

Too often players like Bernie are left in an unfair and difficult situation.

No one wants to hear negative things about their parents and all too often any suggestions made by the media about John Tomic must surely seem only like an attack.

Whatever we think of John Tomic, he loves his son.

And importantly, Bernie loves his dad back.

To simply suggest that Bernie needs to find another coach is a simplification of what must be an incredibly complicated relationship.

Perhaps it would be better to look at the need for Bernie to find a new coach through a different question.

Rather than, ‘Your dad’s nuts and he’s damaging your career’ which must instantly put Bernie and his dad on the defensive, how about, ‘Let’s take a look at the top tennis players in the world and how many of the top ten have never swapped coaches?’

The obvious example, is of course, Rafael Nadal who has been coached by his Uncle Toni Nadal since he was a child.

The only other male in the top ten who has stayed with pretty much one coach is Juan Martin del Potro.

And when you look outside of the top ten it’s a similar scenario.

The numbers suggest that in order to reach the top of the game, players need to take a highly professional approach and seek out those, who they believe have the ability to get them to the top of the profession.

And that’s not your dad, or your mum or your uncle, unless you are Rafael Nadal.

John Tomic’s twelve month suspension from attending matches, after assaulting Bernie’s hitting partner,  Thomas Drouet, should have come as a great relief to Bernie, especially if he was serious about using this as an opportunity to extricate himself from being coached by his dad.

The ban ends next week and it will be interesting to see what happens, although I think we all expect the status quo to be put back into place.

This is a real shame if Bernie does not use this to seek a more professional coaching arrangement.

This lack of professionalism of being coached by your father was highlighted in 2012 at the Miami Open when Tomic asked the chair umpire to have his father ejected from his courtside seat.


Ok, we may argue that the then 19 yr old Tomic may not have handled the situation well, but his father also wasn’t the epitome of maturity. Tomic Snr sat courtside shaking his head in disappointment at his son.

The whole episode, quite frankly, highlights the unprofessional nature of parent/coach relationships.

This is also not the only controversy John Tomic has been involved in.

In 2009, Bernie was ordered off the court by his father after Tomic thought the officiating in the match was poor.

Bernard Tomic may be just 22 years old, and thankfully professional tennis is no longer the domain of teenagers winning slams at 18 only to be washed up at 24, but the Australian does need to sort out his tennis career.

Interestingly he is friends with Canada’s Milos Raonic off court, who made the decision to move on from his coach of three years, Galo Blanco last May when he felt the Spaniard could no longer help him.

It seems a bit of a shame that Tomic doesn’t seem to have Raonic’s same motivations for success, including making what must have been a painful and difficult decision, but one that he felt was necessary.

Bernard Tomic needs to professionalise his career and this should begin with hiring a professional coach on a full time basis, not an interim basis.

This needs to be decision based on calm logic and the reality of what it takes to be a top tennis player and not one based on hot-headed emotions.

Sadly, I doubt this will be a decision we are likely to see any time soon.



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