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Real reason resurgent Tomic copped AO snub

When Bernard Tomic first burst onto the scene as a teenager, he had the tennis world at his feet – but for a variety of reasons, he never reached the top.

The 30-year-old was left out of the qualifying wildcards when the list was released, and will not feature at Melbourne Park.

Yet, despite his rancorous past, there’s perhaps a reasonable case that he should have been given the chance to reignite his flagging career at his home grand slam.

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Why Tomic can’t qualify for the Australian Open

Quite simply, by courtesy of his world ranking of 462 Tomic left his fate in the hands of Tennis Australia, with a wildcard entry into the qualifying draw his only hope of clawing his way into the first grand slam of 2023.

The criteria for wildcard spots is rubbery, although they are often reserved for young Australians who are climbing their way up the tennis ladder and are considered to have a promising future.

Tomic, now 30, and having made his Australian Open main draw debut way back in 2009, certainly isn’t ‘young’ and despite a recent upturn in his results it is still debatable whether he has a promising future.

Yet wildcards are also handed out to veterans as a reward for past deeds as well as players who have made a significant leap up the rankings.

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Having slipped to a low of 825 in the world last year, Tomic rocketed 363 places up the rankings by season’s end on the back of three tournament victories on the Futures circuit.

Should that bounce have been rewarded with a wildcard? Potentially. At the very least it’s left Tennis Australia open to accusations of personality politics, given the acrimonious past shared by the former prodigy and the governing body, particularly as other Aussies given qualifying wildcards have ATP rankings as low as 1017.

Hewitt feud that broke relationship with Tennis Australia

Another layer to Tomic’s wildcard snub goes back to 2019, when he rolled a lit stick of dynamite off the press conference podium after losing in straight sets in the opening round of the Australian Open, to sixth seed Marin Cilic.

The target? Lleyton Hewitt. It was a war Tomic was never going to win and he was instantly blacklisted. His card was marked ‘never to play Davis Cup tennis again’ – these comments made by Hewitt at the time couldn’t have made this more plain – and from that day forward he seemingly became persona non grata in the eyes of Tennis Australia.

Four years on, Hewitt is still Australia’s Davis Cup captain and still holds plenty of power in the corridors of Tennis Australia.

That’s left Tomic somewhat isolated in his bid to return to relevance in the tennis world – a fact that he is clearly resigned to judging by recent comments on a podcast.

Instead of getting handouts from an organization he disrespected, Tomic will likely have to rely on results from far-flung tournaments to boost his ranking enough to trigger automatic qualification into the qualifying rounds of grand slams.

Based on recent results, that appears to be a realistic goal in 2023, potentially setting up the mainstream return of Australian tennis’ prodigal son as a 31-year-old in 2024.

Tomic vows to bounce back

After finding out he had not been given a wildcard into the qualifying draw, Tomic was philosophically telling SEN’s The First Serve podcast that he wasn’t “expecting any favours”.

“I’m going to prove my point and earn my way,” he said.

“I understand Tennis Australia has made its decision.

“It’s good to see the young tennis players getting an opportunity. I’m at a place in my life where I don’t complain anymore. I’m focused and I’ve been training hard. I’ll let my tennis do the talking.”

“Last quarter of 2022, I won three tournaments and made four finals. This year is my year. If no one is going to help support me, I’ll get back to top 100 on my own.

“My head space is very different. I’m in a positive environment, good people around me, I’m in a healthy, happy relationship. Now all there is to do, is get back to where I belong.”

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