It seems Bernard Tomic won't be getting an invite to the Hewitt household for dinner any time soon.
Team Tomic, including Bernie, his father John, and their handlers, has caused a rift with compatriot Lleyton Hewitt stemming from a request made by the 2-time Grand Slammer during this year's Wimbledon. While preparing for a fourth round encounter with Radek Stepanek on the middle Sunday, Lleyton and his team reached out to the rising 16-year old and his camp.
David Drysdale, Lleyton's manager, discussed the incident with The Age:
As Team Hewitt tells it, several phone calls were made to Tomic, his father and an IMG agent on the Saturday evening, asking if Tomic would hit at 1pm the following day. There was no response, but the 16-year-old was present when Hewitt arrived to practice. His physiotherapist, Ivan Gutierrez, made the approach to the Tomic entourage.
''We turned up and saw the Tomics around and we thought, 'oh, maybe they got our message, and they were there to hit with Lleyton', so Ivan went over to Bernard's trainer at the time, Rudy [Sopko], and said; 'is Bernard here to hit'? Drysdale said.
''Rudy knew nothing of it, but said; 'look, Bernard's looking for a practice partner and I think Bernard would like to do it', but then the agent came in and said; 'no, he's not hitting with Lleyton, Lleyton's not good enough'.''
''They were his words: 'Lleyton's not good enough', and we just about dropped on the spot. We were pretty dumbfounded. Lleyton just could not believe it, and the more he thought about it the angrier he got about it.''
Drysdale then approached Juan Carlos Ferrero who happened to be courtside to discuss a possible practice session with Lleyton. The Spaniard told him,
'no, no, I've got a practice partner, but that young Australian kid Tomic, he just came and asked me to hit, why don't you ask him'?
Uh-oh. Of course, Bernie's agent Lawrence Frankopan denied all wrong doing:
The idea that an IMG agent would say that a multiple grand slam champion was not good enough to hit with a 16-year-old, that's just ridiculous. It's laughable.
When Frankopan was asked why Team Tomic would go to another right-handed baseliner he replied, "Unfortunately I wasn't necessarily involved in the dealings at that time.''
Gotta love the ol' "step around" right there. But those involved on Lleyton's side see one person as the culprit here: Papa John, who isn't afraid of a little controversy himself. In fact, last season he had to publicly apologize after having words with an umpire and pushing Bernie to default a match over accusation his opponent was being allowed to foot fault during the match.
Accoring to Drysdale,
There's no way Lleyton as a junior would ever had said 'no' in that situation … I know it's John Tomic who made the decision. We can't completely penalise Bernard for it … and I hope that [new Davis Cup coach] Todd Woodbridge can sort all this out, because I think that one of the problems with the Tomics is that Tennis Australia has been trying to pin their hopes on someone for so long, since Lleyton, and they're so desperate to get someone other than Lleyton, that they're allowing this guy to get away with far too much.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out for Australia's opening Davis Cup tie next season and whether Bernie will be asked to join their country's squad. Unfortunately, we've all seen this scenario play out before in tennis with the father-as-coach wielding control over their son's or daughter's career in an unfortunate manner.
Let's hope Bernie doesn't pay the price for his father's mistakes. Again.
(Photos: AP, Getty)