Down Under: From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.
Uh-oh. It looks like the festive season did little to quell the Hewitt/Tomic feud, as Lleyton blasted Bernard Tomic in the Australian press today.
Earlier in the year, Bernard Tomic turned down an arrangement to practice with Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon. Tomic denied at the time that he intentionally snubbed Hewitt, citing swine flu as the reason for not wanting to hit with him.
Hewitt however claims that Tomic sought out Ferrero instead, breaching earlier arrangements. Indeed, Cliff Drysdale said that Hewitt laughed at Tomic’s excuse that he was ill.
“You’ve got to wonder. I would have thought if he had swine flu at the tournament he wouldn’t have been able to play at the tournament or be around other people.”
Hewitt was also disturbed about Tomic’s sledging of his friend Luczak in a practice match in Chile.
Asked if Tomic deserves a place in the Australian Davis Cup team, Hewitt responded:
“Not right at the moment, no. He lost to Nick Lindahl and Matt Ebden in the [Australian Open] wildcard playoffs.
“These aren’t world-beaters. They’re solid players. They’re tough grinders who have been around and played a lot of Futures and are very hard at it and work extremely hard.
“But, if you’re looking at players at the moment, [Peter] Luczak has had as good a year as he’s ever had. I’d definitely want him there with me.”
You know you’re a veteran when you starts reminiscing about your youths.
“When I was [ranked] 25, 30 in the world, I wasn’t getting a look in Davis Cup to play for Australia. We had Pat [Rafter], Flip [Mark Philippoussis] and the Woodies [Todd Woobridge and Mark Woodforde], the No.1 doubles team in the world at the time and one of the greatest doubles teams of all time. Now there are people who think they deserve to be in Davis Cup when they are ranked 250, 300 in the world.
“That’s the sad thing.”
Youch. But Hewitt has a point here.
Tomic’s swine flu tale was flimsy at best. Unless he’s prepared to admit that he was too “ill” to practice with Hewitt, but not too ill to practice with Ferrero or indeed compete in the tournament.
The more likely tale is that Tomic was ill-advised to practice with someone else. But in taking on that advice, he set himself apart from Hewitt, who for better or worse is an integral figure in this country’s tennis culture.
Asked if he would play with Tomic on the same Davis Cup team, Hewitt deliberated.
“It’s something I haven’t thought about. Everyone knows how passionate I am about Davis Cup.
“I’ve only ever been around him for one tie and that was in Townsville and I didn’t have much to do with him. He arrived late, he arrived a day or two after everyone else.”
Hewitt also left open the possibility of Davis Cup captaincy in the same interview.
“Maybe down the line. Obviously a lot of things would have to change within Tennis Australia,” he said.
“We’re too good a nation to be sitting back in the qualifying zone. It’s not a lot of fun playing there. Once you’ve been in four Davis Cup finals in five years and the buzz that you get from playing those ties, nothing beats that.
“It’s an amazing feeling. To go back and play in Thailand with a handful of people watching, it’s frustrating.
“One small goal that I’ve got is to get us back in the world group again before I do hang it up. I believe we’re capable of doing it.”
A lot of things would have to change within Tennis Australia for sure. A Hewitt/Tomic partnership could’ve been a media success – the changing of guards between Australia’s sole tennis custodian and the nation’s new boy-wonder. But Tennis Australia’s lack of action on this issue has led to factionalism amongst the ATP players in this country.
This is particularly sad in light of the long tradition of Davis Cup camaraderie in this country that has led to Australia becoming the second most successful nation in Davis Cup history. The likes of Laver, Newcombe, Emerson, Rosewall, Neale Fraser, Lew Hoad, Tony Roche, Rafter and Cash have dotted our tennis history.
Nowadays, while interest in tennis continues to run high, the trajectory of the sport in this country has taken a drastic fall. To have two of the country’s best hopes for Davis Cup success feuding is too damaging on the prospects of Australia returning to the World Group, particularly when Davis Cup is all about a certain esprit de corps.
It’s about time Tomic invited Hewitt to sit down and resolve the matter.