For once, Bernard Tomic let his tennis do the talking. His surprise win over the world no.1 Djokovic at the Hopman Cup this past week shifted attention away from his recent run-ins with the law and back on to his potential as a possible top ten player.
But during a press conference before the start of the ATP event in Sydney, Tomic expressed in no uncertain terms that he feels he is top ten bound. Sooner rather than later.
“The way I’ve been playing now, there’s no stopping me. I’m not going to say I’ll be in the top ten in two or three months. It could take a little bit longer, I don’t know. It could happen just like that, the way I’ve been playing,” said Tomic who went on to say he felt very confident he could win the Sydney event a week before the start of the Australian Open.
Big talk from Tomic is nothing new. When he was 14, Tomic said that he would be No. 1 in the world, win all four Majors and be the youngest player ever on the Australian Davis Cup team. When he was suspended from competing for Davis Cup back in December after he was involved in a bizarre fight with a friend while in a hot tub, Tomic admitted that the past season was not his best, but then repeated his previous bold prediction by saying, “I’ve had a slippery slope the last year. It’s changing me and I’ll prove I’m going to be the best-ever player one day to play this game.”
While confident words from a young player is often encouraging to hear, Tomic’s pronouncements have a signature of arrogance that many feel is unjustified considering his lack of significant results aside from a run to the quarters of Wimbledon a few years ago. Tomic’s bravado is just as much a part of him as his lanky frame and deceptive groundstrokes. When he was very young, it’s likely someone, either his father or an agent told Tomic as a kid, “You’re going to be the greatest of all time.” And young Tomic just took that to heart and said, “Yep, I am.” His statements may come across as arrogance, but Tomic could just be expressing his genuine belief in his ability. He also could be saying all this as a form of personal propaganda to keep himself motivated as a way to deal with the crushing weight of expectation that’s been placed on him since he was a kid.
Whether or not Tomic makes good on his promise is, of course, up to him. But why are so many put off by Tomic despite him being one of the most naturally gifted young players out there? Have they forgotten that other athletes in plenty of sports say similar ego-enhancing statements, and though they might get called out for it sometimes, it’s not considered that big of a deal. Or is it because the current “golden age” of men’s tennis, with its top stars frequently trying to out-compliment each other, when really they want to beat them everywhere every time, makes Tomic’s comments sound more jarring than they really are. Ryan Harrison, another “young gun” who has made frequent statements that he believes he will be great one day too, doesn’t draw as much attention as Tomic when he says such things. Of course, Harrison isn’t being pursued by the police on a monthly basis either.
Tennis fans and media living in Australia may have been quick to condemn Tomic’s outrageous off-court antics of late, but they have been just as quick in singing his praises when he scores a big win on the court, as he did against Djokovic even if it was at an exhibition. Tennis Australia prides itself on its players working hard and staying humble. And while that’s admirable, it doesn’t exactly make that an exciting combo for casual fans to keep up with or pay attention to. Tomic might not be appropriate at times, but he certainly will never be boring. Looking at it another way, if Tomic’s many sponsors had found disfavor with his recent troubles, wouldn’t they have dropped him by now?
Tomic has the potential to be great. Really great. He also has the potential to spend more time waiting for his lawyer to post bail for him at the local police precinct. Some find that duality in Tomic disturbing. But it actually makes him one of the most intriguing personalities out there. Fans may sound off on Tomic’s “bad boy” behavior, but outspoken and controversial players have long been part of the history of the sport. And Tomic certainly won’t be the last young star to speak his or her mind whether you want to hear what they have to say or not.
Whatever your view of Tomic’s past or his future, he’s not going to stop talking up his chances. And that means we probably won’t stop talking about him either. Tomic will have to start backing up his bold claims and a good run in Melbourne this year will certainly help his cause. But even if he loses early, don’t expect him to start saying “no comment” anytime soon. He may not even know how to say the phrase at all.