WIMBLEDON – First came a fine for Bernard Tomic.
Later on Thursday, racquet sponsor Head dropped him.
Tomic lost his first-round singles match at Wimbledon to No. 27 seed Mischa Zverev 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 on Tuesday.
It was a tough first round from the get-go; the serve-and-volleying Zverev is a tough customer on grass.
But it was made significantly easier for Zverev by Tomic’s lack of commitment to the cause.
His comments after the match – while refreshingly candid – were what got him in trouble. Tomic admitted he took a medical timeout for his perfectly healthy back, merely to try to break his opponent’s momentum. That was probably not his best move.
“I was just playing very bad and feeling bad out there. Tried to use something different maybe, you know, slow him down a bit on the serve. … I just started bad the first set, and then, you know, mentally I wasn’t there after he broke me in the second.”
“It was definitely a mental issue out there. Yeah, I just tried to break a bit of momentum but just couldn’t find any rhythm and, you know, wasn’t mentally and physically there with my mental state to perform. I don’t know why, but, you know, I felt a little bit bored out there. You know, to be completely honest with you. So I tried at the end and stuff, he managed to win that set 6-3 or 6-4, but it was too late.”
Mid-career crisis, at least
Tomic’s monotone, dispassionate delivery, regardless of if he’s happy, sad or indifferent, admittedly doesn’t help him in terms of what he’s projecting.
Tomic said he’d felt this way “many times” in his career. And he said he was having a hard time staying inspired after having come on Tour as a teenager.
“Just trying to find something, you know, this is my eighth Wimbledon or ninth I think. I’m still 24, and it’s tough to find motivation, you know. Really, me being out there on the court, to be honest with you, I just couldn’t find any motivation.
“To me, this is one of the biggest tournaments in the world that I have done really well in my career, and, yeah, I just couldn’t find anything. It’s happened to me a lot. Just can’t find anything on the court.”
He spoke about having 10 years left in his career, and almost sounded resigned to it.
“I believe, you know, you have to respect the sport. But I think I don’t respect it enough,” he said.
Winning doesn’t do a thing
Tomic said he no longer felt any satisfaction from holding up the winner’s trophy.
“It’s not there. I couldn’t care less if I make a fourth-round US Open or I lose first round. To me, everything is the same. You know, I’m going to play another 10 years, and I know after my career I won’t have to work again,” he said. “So for me this is mental.
“Now it’s a roller coaster, and I just can’t seem to find, like, the commitment to work hard, to enjoy, and to lift trophies. Maybe I have to look at a few things and maybe play less tournaments.”
Not long after that, he said he was headed to the U.S. to play Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Canada, the US Open and whatever else was out there.
The fine for unsportsmanlike conduct from the International Tennis Federation in relation to the comments was announced Thursday, two days after the press conference.
The $15,000 total works out to about one-third of what Tomic earned for losing in the first round of singles.
In pulling their sponsorship, no doubt Head considered a long history of similar behaviour, although this might have been the most astonishingly frank set of statements from him.
Nike, in a statement to the British wire services, is staying.
Nike are sticking by Tomic – for now. Spokesman to PA Sport: "Bernard Tomic remains a Nike athlete."
— Eleanor Crooks (@EleanorcrooksPA) July 6, 2017
But still; it seems pretty drastic. You’d think a public announcement of an effort to help Tomic deal with his current demons would go much further, publicity-wise, than just cutting him off.
Head breaks supportive precedent
Head, which is a privately-owned company and thus not beholden to shareholders, did not end its association with French player Richard Gasquet when he tested positive cocaine (a minute amount) back in 2009.
Gasquet’s original suspension was later reduced to 2 1/2 months after the anti-doping authorities were satisfied that his story of having inadvertently ingested the cocaine after kissing a women was credible.
More recently, Head firmly stood by Maria Sharapova in March of 2016, after she announced she had been suspended after a positive doping test at the Australian Open six weeks before.
Sharapova’s sponsors, for the most part, had adopted a wait-and-see attitude at that time, waiting for the entire issue to play out.
Interesting to read that a brand stops w a player after he says he's struggling w motivation but fully supports another that admits doping.
— Bruno Soares (@BrunoSoares82) July 6, 2017
But company owner Johan Eliasch announced at the time that not only was Head standing by her, it was looking to extend her contract. That remained so even when the company’s top endorser, world No. 1 Andy Murray, expressed his reservations about the unequivocal support.
Eliasch said Sharapova had “made an honest mistake”, and had “earned the benefit of the doubt.”
“The honesty and courage she displayed in announcing and acknowledging her mistake was admirable. Head is proud to stand behind Maria, now and into the future and we intend to extend her contract,” the statement said at the time. “We look forward to working with her and to announcing new sponsorships in the weeks and months ahead.”
Tomic’s association with Head had been a long one. He defected over to Yonex for a couple of years, but returned to then in 2014.