Inspired by Hewitt, Tomic finds focus
Enjoying one of his best seasons on the ATP World Tour, Australia's Bernard Tomic continues to strive for the top 10.
Five years ago, Australian tennis looked to have found its successor to former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt when 18-year-old Bernard Tomic burst onto the scene as a qualifier at Wimbledon, making a run to the quarterfinals.
Three years earlier, Tomic had become the youngest-ever Australian Open boys’ champion, aged 15. He then looked to be taking the first step towards realising his potential in 2011 as he ousted world No.5 Robin Soderling at SW19 before his run ended in four sets against Novak Djokovic.
However, it’s been a rocky road both on and off the court since then for Queensland’s Tomic. He would go on to break the Top 30 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in the summer of 2012, but admitted that a lack of professionalism, coupled by injury woes in 2014, derailed his progress on the ATP World Tour.
Speaking to ATPWorldTour.com, Tomic admitted that success may have come too early in his career. “Having success at a young age is a great thing. It’s a hype, a big feeling, but sometimes it can put you down,” he said.
“I think I got a little bit lazy and stayed around the 30-50 mark in the rankings for that year when I was 19, 20. I managed to reach a career-high of 27 at the age of 19, but I felt like I was not giving my best and not performing at my 100 per cent level. That’s something that I realised only the past few years or so.”
Off-court transgressions together with frustrations on the court led people to make quick judgments about Tomic and his demeanour. But sit down with the 23-year-old Tomic and you engage with a polite, well-mannered, mature, committed and thoughtful individual.
“I’ve had a few hiccups on the way, but I’m that sort of a personality,” he said. “Everyone’s different. I enjoy being out playing matches, competing and training. It’s an amazing sport. I’ve definitely learned a lot from the age of 18 and that’s made me improve so much in the past two years.
“You should always remember to not judge a book by its cover. Sometimes people meet me in Australia and say, ‘Hey, you’re not that person that everyone thinks you are.’ I think maybe the media turned it around and I think with having so much hype and aggression at a young age, they really expected a lot of big things from me. They forgot that we’re in the toughest era of tennis and you have to earn your spot in the top 10 in the world. That’s something that I’m trying to achieve.”
Enter Hewitt. The two-time Grand Slam champion is credited by Tomic as being the driving force behind getting his career back on track in the past 18 months. Hewitt, who retired from professional tennis at the start of 2016, has taken on the role of Australia’s Davis Cup captain as well as mentor and coach to Tomic.
Hewitt was famed for his competitiveness and left no stone unturned during his illustrious career. Under the Aussie stalwart’s guidance, Tomic has found the drive, desire and work ethic he hopes will take him to the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“I’ve learned a lot [from Hewitt] and the biggest thing is how he got to world No.1 and how hard he worked; the commitments and the sacrifices he had to make. That’s something that I need to do,” said Tomic. “At this level of tennis now, it’s so tough out there and there are so many good guys in the top 10, you need to really compete and work hard.
“All the time he’s encouraging me to do more and more and to make sure I’ve done the work. He’s just so positive, Lleyton himself. I feel like at the end of the year I can do a good pre-season with him and have a good training block before the Australian summer.”
The renewed focus has seen Tomic spend the past 11 months hovering in and around the Top 20, and he now has three ATP World Tour titles on his resume. This week he competes at the Western & Southern Open, looking to make another deep run at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 after quarterfinals at Indian Wells and Shanghai last year.
From there, Tomic is eyeing the top 10 and a strong run at the US Open.
“The past two years have been pretty up for me. I can take a lot of positive things from it. I’m 23 now and hopefully have a great future the next six to seven years. I’m improving all the time. I need this next few years to be more professional really and target being a consistent top 10 player,” said Tomic.
“It’s very, very tough [going from Top 20 to Top 10]. I managed to get from 80 in the world last year to 17 – my career-high. The next positive for me is really doing well at a Slam, maybe at the US Open, having a good run there and using my seeding in the draw to really open up a good tournament for me.
“I’d love to win a Grand Slam or two. I know I have it in me and I know I have to focus these next few years. I had a big chance this year at Wimbledon to maybe make another quarterfinal to play Berdych. I’ve played many, many times the third and fourth rounds of Grand Slams and been very consistent up to that stage. But to play in the semifinal of Grand Slams and push for a final is something that I need to break and I need to achieve.
“I have to stay healthy and I have to get that block of being a top 15 seed in the tournament. But until then you really have to work on the other tournaments – win those, make a lot of points – because we know this tour is not just one or two weeks. We have to perform throughout the whole year if you want to have any success or chance at doing well in the majors.”