The proud Australian tennis fraternity were going through a rather dry spell. Lleyton Hewitt, the last Aussie man to win a slam, was approaching the twilight of his career. The search was on for the next Hewitt. Perhaps they aimed a bit too low, for soon a player would emerge who had become too good to even share a practice court with Hewitt, while he was still a junior.
Enter Bernard Tomic. At the 2009 Wimbledon, he was a 16 year old competing in the junior event. Hewitt contacted his young countryman’s camp and invited him to practice with him. Unfortunately for Hewitt, his physiotherapist Iván Gutiérrez was told by Tomic’s agent: “No, he’s not hitting with Lleyton, Lleyton’s not good enough.”
Before the prodigious Tomic began competing on the ITF junior tour, he had already stated his ambition – he would become the number 1 tennis player in the world, win all the Grand Slams and become Australia’s youngest Davis Cup player. And he even specified exactly how he would achieve all this – basically he would attain the serve of Goran Ivanišević, the mind of Pete Sampras, the groundstrokes of Roger Federer and the heart of Lleyton Hewitt. The latter is something that he claimed he had already achieved.
Tomic’s family migrated to Gold Coast, Queensland in 1996. 13 years later, this decision payed off when Tomic was granted a wildcard into his first Australian Open main draw. Needless to say, he won his first ever Grand Slam main draw match. He eventually lost in the second round. Next year, his Australian citizenship was further vindicated when he was granted another wildcard into the Australian Open, despite losing the wildcard playoff. Once again, he reached the second round. For the Aussie fans and media, there was no doubt about it. Tomic was soon going to be the great flag bearer Aussie tennis so desperately needed.
Bernard Tomic had his first – and many would say only – major breakthrough on the ATP tour at Wimbledon 2011. He reached the quarter finals, incidentally becoming the youngest Wimbledon quarter finalist in 25 years. The entire world now had to sit up and take note. He wowed audiences with his super easy racket swing, combined with the footwork and agility of a pregnant hippo. His lazy elegance often made it look like he wasn’t even trying. In time, we would learn that appearances aren’t always deceptive.
Tomic eventually lost the quarter finals to Novak Djokovic. That match can be considered to be a career changing one for the Serb. Having beaten Tomic, he now had the confidence that he could beat anyone on grass. Djokovic, who had never gone beyond the semis at The All England Club, went on to lift his first Wimbledon trophy that year. Today, he is a three-time Wimbledon champion.
Tomic was part of an incredible young upcoming generation, the likes of which men’s tennis hadn’t witnessed for a very long time, if ever. This included several future legends such as Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and perhaps a couple others too. Indeed, the previous decade had seen the rise of players like Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Marat Safin, and Hewitt. Now the tennis world was eagerly waiting for this new generation of players to reach their full potential and play second fiddle to the so-called ‘Big 4’.
In that regard, the generation has definitely not disappointed, and continue to do so to this day. But of course, Tomic stands out well ahead of his contemporaries. At the time of writing, the rankings difference between him and Federer is an astonishing 160 spots.
At the age of only 25, Tomic has racked up 3 ATP titles – all of them ATP 250s. He’s now only 106 titles short of Jimmy Connors’ Open Era record of 109. Along the way, he has made his way into record books across the world. His name is certainly present in the record books of the Gold Coast police and the Miami police. Having made a Wimbledon quarter final as a teenager, he has never made a major quarter final since. Surely, that can has to be some sort of record too.
Recently, Tomic provided us some major insight into the source of his inspiration and work ethic out on court. Over the years, he’s become quite generous when it comes to sharing his immense wisdom. We’ve often been blessed with precious nuggets like “I felt a little bit bored out there”, “I would tell my younger self, ‘don’t play tennis’” and “holding a trophy or doing well, it just doesn’t satisfy me anymore”. But after failing to qualify for the Australian Open earlier this year(and no, no wildcard this time), he gave us his true weltanschauung:
I just count money, that’s all I do. I count my millions.
Everyone needs their source of strength and motivation, and this was Tomic’s. Of course, it’s a radical new approach, and didn’t go down well with many of the game’s purists. For example, Andy Roddick who was known for his passion and love for the game, and always giving 100% on the tennis court, had this to say:
Maybe stop for a second and think of the millions you’ve left on the table …. https://t.co/t27GA4WHyG
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) January 14, 2018
Then again, Andy probably didn’t realize that this is pretty much a pot and kettle scenario. For most of Roddick’s career, there was a Swiss guy skimming millions off the top of his table.
Despite the criticism, Tomic’s career trajectory didn’t change, as can be evidenced from his gradual exit from the top 200 in April. As anyone who’s tried counting to a million and beyond will tell you, it’s a tedious and time-consuming task. Most top players hire agents to deal with such complex matters. But clearly Tomic is made of sterner stuff. And by his calculations he’s already made 13-14 million.
As befitting a celebrity of his stature, a couple of weeks after the loss at the Australian Open qualifiers, Tomic was announced as a participant on the reality show, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here. Within 3 days however, he quit because it made him feel depressed. Ironically, the show’s co-host claimed that he cost them millions in logistics and marketing expenses.
And if a couple of young kids learning to play tennis ever came up to him, his advice would probably be this – “You go do what I did. You go make 13-14 million. Good luck guys. Bye bye.”
Note – This article is to be taken as seriously as Tomic takes his tennis.