To win an ATP title after a title drought of almost 3 years is a significant achievement and a matter of relief for any Tennis player. But for someone like Bernard Tomic who was once touted as the next big thing in the world of tennis, his fall was not just in terms of a steep decline in ranking, but more importantly the fall from grace in the eyes of tennis fans for his perceived lack of passion and fight. It is hoped that his title win at the just-concluded Chengdu Open is much more than just a matter of relief.
In the last few years, Tomic was not only losing matches to the journeymen of ATP tour on a regular basis, but he was seen to be tanking quite frequently. Tennis did not seem to be his first priority. When on a tennis court, he seemed like a walking shadow of his former self.
He was frequently booed off the court by fans who came to watch him play, but more often than not, there was neither intensity nor any passion for the game. More than the actual results that often went against Tomic, it was this sheer lack of effort and passion on the court that irked the tennis fans, including this columnist, no end. To a tennis fan, what Tomic was doing on court was tantamount to disrespecting the game itself.
What compounded matters further were his idiotic comments in press conferences boasting of his wealth, ‘achievements’ and awesome life, when asked about his on-court failures. He even started dabbling in silly reality shows. By early 2018, almost everyone wrote him off. He seemed to be in that long list of prodigiously talented players, who just fritter away their enviable talent.
But just like that, almost surreptitiously, something seems to have changed in him in the last couple of months. After losing to countryman Kokkinakis in the US Open qualifiers, Tomic went on to win the inaugural Manacor ATP Challenger hosted by Rafael Nadal academy, also known as the Rafael Nadal ATP Challenger.
It’s a quirk of fate that this seeming revival of Tomic’s career, in which the Chengdu Open is a major milestone, actually took place at a tournament named after probably the greatest fighter in Tennis history – a player who plays every match, every set, every game and every damn point, as if his life depended on it.
Let’s hope some of that passion, and the never-say-die attitude rubs off on Bernard Tomic. Not just the win in Chengdu, but the manner of his triumph – he fought off four match points in the third set tie-breaker against Fognini - possibly harkens a future for Tomic where he will do justice to his talent and bring his fans back through his unmistakable talent and a new-found passion.
Welcome back, Bernard. One sincerely hopes it’s not another false dawn!