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Tennis is all Bernard Tomic has ever known, but is it what he really wants?
News Limited Network
October 25, 20121:11PM
WHAT'S eating Bernard Tomic?
From brushes with the law to fuming at journalists and accusations of tanking in matches, it has been the year from hell for the young tennis prodigy.
The alarm bells were ringing well before his recent 6-4 6-0 first round loss at the Shanghai Masters, in which he admitted to giving only "85 per cent."
It came not long after he was accused by John McEnroe of "tanking it" in his US Open capitulation against Andy Roddick.
That was on the court this year.
Off it, Tomic ended up in court on the Gold Coast after being pulled over three times on Australia Day for breaching driving restrictions in his high-powered and very distinctive orange BMW.
Add it all up and it has many wondering what is really going on with the wunderkind.
People forget he is still very young, but many believe it goes deeper than that.
More and more, the burning question is becoming clear - is tennis what Tomic really wants to do?
Has anyone actually ever asked him?
The young man in question has never had a say in the matter.
Maybe he does - when he turns it on he looks destined to become a top-10 player.
To people on the Gold Coast, he appears much older than his 20 years, because it feels like he has been on the scene forever. And maybe that time in the spotlight is starting to weigh on Tomic.
He's had a tennis racquet in his hand from since he could remember with an overbearing father in the background who spruiked him at every opportunity.
Before he was old enough to shave, little Bernie was telling journalists he wanted to be world No.1 and hold every Grand Slam title by the age of 20.
The approach, mixed with Tomic's obvious talent and hard work, helped him to a six-figure, three-year deal with global sports management giant IMG at age 13.
A deal with Nike soon followed.
"He has made the best deal in history for his age,'" Tomic's father, John, told the Gold Coast Bulletin at the time.
"We are satisfied with the contract ... they are very kind people."
John Tomic, who drove taxis when he arrived in Australia to support his family, bought a 50c tennis racquet for Bernard at a Gold Coast garage sale and the rest is history.
Soon Bernard was training nearly every day at the Queen's Park Tennis Centre in Southport, just north of Surfers Paradise.
Many on-lookers were shocked to see the father loudly barking orders at his son day after day, hour after hour.
Tomic Snr, who trained himself to become a tennis coach, never made any apologies for his hard-nosed approach.
After all, he was training his son to become the best.
The Tomic patriarch would welcome journalists into Team Tomic with gusto.
The first time this journalist interviewed Tomic on the Gold Coast, the budding star had just turned 14.
I found him to be a well mannered, shy, a nice kid dealing with a lot on his plate.
His father, meanwhile, whose thick accent made him difficult at times to understand, was intense, intimidating and always hovering.
As his son hit balls in front of us, he enjoyed telling me what I should be writing about Bernard.
He is this, he is that.
He will be great, but he needs to work on this and this.
I got a sense of the pressure he was under when an older man at the tennis centre, who knew the Tomics, came over to half-jokingly ask Bernard for a seat in his box at Wimbledon down the track.
"You will be there with us," John Tomic replied with a wide grin.
The 14-year-old just smiled as well as he collected tennis balls while the hot Gold Coast sun bore down on us.
Make no mistake of it, Tomic Snr is an intimidating character.
The second you wrote something he deemed even mildly negative or not to his liking, you were cut off and so was your organisation for as long as he deemed fit.
It was very much a case of you are either with us or against us.
There were no shades of grey in his world.
This journalist was blacklisted in 2007 for reporting that Tennis Australia had cut Tomic's funding for what they deemed a lack of effort during a French Open juniors match.
When quizzed about it not long afterwards, Tomic Jnr spoke maturely and said he had learnt from it.
His father, however, was livid it was reported in his hometown newspaper.
A few years later, a former colleague built up some trust with Tomic Snr and and became close to the family over time.
But he was also immediately cut off for a story on Tomic's former fitness co-ordinator, who said the teenager needed to put in the hard work off the court.
On the same page as that story, famed tennis coach Nick Bolletteri said Tomic would turn into one "hell of a player".
The closest thing to a public blow-up between the two Tomics came at a tournament in Miami of this year, when Tomic tried to have his dad thrown out of the stadium.
"He's annoying. I know he's my father but he's annoying me. I want him to leave but how's that possible?" Tomic asked the chair umpire.
This was far more significant than a few years earlier when the father ordered his son off the court during a match in Perth.
It is now later October and Tomic is still struggling.
It has led respected analyst Darren Cahill to suggest he must have a heart-to-heart with his father and find a new coach.
"Ok, time for Bernard Tomic to sit down with his father & work out what he (Bernie) wants from the sport - A long term plan & Enjoyment needed,'' Rasheed tweeted from Paris.
That's it in a nutshell - what does Tomic want?
If this is what he wants, he could do worse than to listen to Rasheed's advice.
After all, there is little doubt he has what it takes to be one of the world's best players.
But to get there, he may need to change his methods.
John Tomic loves his son.
But sometimes one needs to know when to take a step back.
In this case, that one step back might be what enables his son to move forward.