This got us thinking, what does the future hold for Bernard Tomic in the ATP? Welcome to the inaugural Changeover Chat, a quick back and forth between the writing staff at The Changeover.
Juan José: I am not selling my Bernie stock. I decided a few months ago to give him the Federer Benefit of the Doubt and only dump his stock if he’s still having all these issues at age 23.
Amy: With Tomic, I’m feeling like someone who has a bunch of money in the stock exchange during a recession. I’m tempted to sell the stock, but it’s the least rational time to do so. Bernie’s image and results tanked this year, but it could be salvageable.
Juan José: Especially when the solution is simple: dump dad, move to Monte Carlo and go under Djokovic’s wing.
Lindsay: I never even bought the stock, because I tend to hate anything with hype. HOWEVER, now that people are hating him, I’m thinking of buying. It’s cheap right now.
Amy: I’m not sure he could sink much lower than naked rooftop wrestling, so there’s nowhere to go but up in 2013. But I thought the same thing after the hooning incident, and I was wrong then.
Juan José: A quick Bernie story. About seven years ago, when I was in Ecuador, I saw a little story in the local newspaper (remember those?) about this Australian kid who had signed with IMG, who was going to be the next big thing in tennis. This was a newspaper. IN ECUADOR.
The point is, there’s a reason why Bernie has been followed so closely since forever. There’s too much talent there. He plays the game too easily, even if the FH is kind of a mess and he serves like he’s 5’8 instead of 6’5. And while Nadal, Djokovic and DelPo had a Slam (in Nadal’s case, plural) at 20, Federer got the first one at 23, Murray at 25. So there’s time.
Lindsay: There is time. And the worst thing that can happen to a tennis players these days is too-soon hype. And Bernie is a textbook case of that.
Have you guys watched Friday Night Lights? I couldn’t help but see the similarities between JD McCoy and Bernie today as I watched. Hyped young. Overbearing father. Flashes of time where you see vulnerability and empathize with them but mainly? A complete prick. And they’re both young. So there’s time to grow out of it.
Amy: You raised a great point about Tomic, Juan Jose. One of the most appealing things to me about his game is the relaxed on-court demeanor. Although it can backfire and appear like he’s not trying, being relaxed is actually a major asset in tennis. Generally, if I had to bet on a player with Tomic’s calmness vs. one with Ryan Harrison’s intensity, I’d be inclined to choose Tomic’s temperament any day of the week.
Juan José: I agree with you, Amy. The problem here is figuring out if we have a Federer in waiting, or a Gasquet in waiting. If you remember, Gasquet and Nadal were supposed to be the greatest thing ever, since they were kids. Nadal ended up fulfilling that potential. Gasquet went the route of cocaine, lady of the night … “top 15 is my level.”
Lindsay: Let’s not forget who got fined for destroying the Wimbledon courts this year. It actually wasn’t Ryan Harrison.
Amy: That’s true, Lindsay. Tomic’s had his moments. But I remember the way he played at 2011 Wimbledon. He was so relaxed and confident. People like to kill me when I say this, but it’s a Federer-like demeanor.
Lindsay: It’s true. It is a Fed-like demeanor.
Juan José: It is. But when Federer was 20, he didn’t really have Federer-like demeanor. He was Safin-esque. In a way, I would prefer to have a fiery head case at 20 who then gets it together, rather than a 20 year-old who gets accused of tanking.
Amy: Moving on to the US Open scandal, to be fair to Tomic, I really didn’t think he “tanked” in the match against Andy Roddick. If you read the transcript of his post-match remarks and set aside the meltdown, what struck me the most were two things:
1. He seemed to be overwhelmed by the moment, playing to end Roddick’s career.
2. From the sound of it, he’s been majorly burnt out from playing too many events.
Lindsay: I agree he didn’t really tank, but here are the things that pissed me off:
1. He has ALWAYS been a big-talker (fueled by the media of course) and seemed to beg for the big stages against the big players. Then he completely, COMPLETELY, wussed out when he got it outside of Australia.
2. He complained about scheduling at Wimbledon too, and then did nothing about it before the USO. I know he’d already made the commitments, but there comes a time where — even at the young age of 20 — it’s time to stop making excuses.
Juan José: I just think he’s confused. And I don’t think he has the right coach or the right environment. My worry is that he ends up hating tennis way too soon, and I wonder what his level of ambition is. It’s the same question I have about Dolgopolov. Not so much about Raonic or Harrison — with them it’s about being able to solve issues, or just plain talent. Too bad the ATP can’t launch an intervention and split the Tomic father-son relationship.
Amy: I read this Herald Sun piece a while ago. It talks about Bernie and the dynamics between him and his father, as well as the media. It made me wonder whether Tomic has enough control over his own career. I’m not sure if he’s old enough to have the power and means to break off the father coaching relationship. Sometimes it can be hard to break a coaching bond when it’s a family member. (See: Wozniacki)
Lindsay: Wozniacki is such a good example of that. And Radwanska is such a good example of the bright future ahead when you do have the balls to break free.
Juan José: When I saw that headline, all I could think was “this is Agassi’s story all over again”. However, Mike Agassi knew his limitations. John Tomic…not so much.
It’s complicated to split with coach dad, and sometimes the only way it ends is when the parent realizes that in order to fulfill their kid’s potential, they need to hire an actual coach.
Amy: From the look of things, it doesn’t seem like Tomic’s father will ever come to that realization.
Lindsay: Yeah, I’m not putting my eggs in the “Papa Tomic Will See The Light” basket.
Juan José: You have these cases (Tomic, Radwanska, Wozniacki) where the parent actually thinks they’re the best coach for their kid, when it’s just not true.
Lindsay: So Tomic. 2013. What are our expectations?
Amy: I think he will be okay. I could be wildly wrong, but he might have enough time to get his act together between now and the 2013 Aussie tournaments. Sometimes the fresh start of a new season can revitalize a burnt out player.
Lindsay: I think he regresses again. I think it takes 2-3 years for him to figure it out. Something drastic.
Lindsay: But also: NAKED ROOFTOP WRESTLING!
Amy: It must be a sophisticated new training method. I’m sure a few other ATP players could reap the benefits of naked rooftop wrestling training.
Lindsay: Final words?
Juan José: I guess my final words would be that Tomic not only needs a new coach, shed his dad, etc., but he also needs a support team and someone he can go to for actual advice for life on tour. Because the ATP is a freaking grind. Worst grind in all of sports, I think. So much travel, so much losing, so much solitude.
Lindsay: I think Bernie needs to be his own man, figure out what works for him. I think he will do that, but not for a few more years. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Juan José: To me, the more I think about it, Bernie is quite a bit like Gasquet. Seems eager to please, uncomfortable with the grind, difficult relationship with his home press. Their personality just seems to go contrary to “be his own man”. He just seems like a confused, lonely kid out there. Which is what Gasquet makes me think all the time – someone who doesn’t get much joy out of what he does, and would rather be doing something else.
Amy: Bernie’s naked rooftop wrestling is Gasquet’s cocaine kiss.
Amy: So, in conclusion, I think we can all agree we don’t know what to expect from Tomic next year.
Juan José: No. Complete wildcard. Because of the Big Four dominance, there’s really not much room to grow for the young guys. The second tier of the top 10 goes to the smaller tournaments, pressured for points and wins. When Djokovic and Murray were coming up, there was room. Now we’re in a 17-Masters 1000 stretch with one of the Big 4 winning every single one. That’s nuts. So there’s a glass ceiling of sorts, even for Raonic, et al.
Amy: There is a glass ceiling now. But you never know what the future will bring.