Tennis fans and critics are quick to judge every move made by Aussie Bernard Tomic, who certainly has given everyone plenty of juicy material during the early stages of his tennis career.
The 21-year-old – yes, he's just 21 – was once thought of as a leader among the next generation of players that includes Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and the like. He reached a career best No. 27 in the world after reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open as a teenager two years ago.
Going into this week, he was nearly 100 spots below that, at No. 124.
His fixes with the traffic cops, reportedly abusive father-coach and the antics that typically ensue when a teenager suddenly gets a lot of money and attention and is ill-equpped to deal with it all have stalled his promising career.
And then, this week, the mammoth IMG agency that had represented him since he was 13 years old, long before he did anything in tennis, dumped him with several years remaining on his contract while he was competing as a wild card in Bogotá, Colombia.
They say, of course, that it was by "mutual agreement".
The Claro Open Colombia is a small ATP Tour event that boasted a decent field and, played at altitude, provided a lot of quick-strike tennis. And on Sunday, Tomic was left holding the trophy after a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-6 (4) victory over defending champion Ivo Karlovic of Croatia.
Karlovic, the 6-foot-11 giant with a serve that's tailor made for the conditions, fired 39 aces and earned the only break of the match in the second set. Tomic, who eked out a similar 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 victory in the semi-finals against the average-serving 33-year-old Dominican Victor Estrellas, withstood the barrage and took the title.
It was Tomic's second victory of the season, after a win in Sydney leading up to the Australian Open, where he retired from a match against Rafael Nadal to a chorus of suspicion and derision.
Then Tomic had bilateral hip surgery, which barely silenced that chorus. He hadn't won back-to-back matches since.
After a couple of premature comeback attempts,Tomic took a wild card in Bogotá. And amid all the speculation about the ending of his relationship with his agency, he took the trophy and the lhat that went with it – typical Colombian headwear, but he looks rather silly in it.
It was just another episode in a career that so far has completely confounded everyone. Whenever a kid is supremely talented and fails to buckle down and maximize that talent, the criticism comes in waves.
It's a fickle news cycle, though; In the short attention-span world we live in, the narrative now will be "Tomic gets a kick in the pants when agents drop him, finally gets serious."
But the truth is that Tomic may finally be healthy; hip surgeries at 21 aren't exactly a blister. Next tournament, the Aussie may put up another puzzling effort that will send everyone right back to the strip-club jokes.
That's just the world Bernard Tomic lives in. On the plus side, he's so young that he has a lot of years to grow up, calm down and accomplish what everyone thinks he's capable of. Or not.
One thing is certain: if Tomic wants to play the U.S. Open, he will either have to humbly slog through the qualifying, or get a wild card. This week was the cutoff for entry into the main draw, and Tomic's ranking of No. 124 won't cut it. His Bogotá effort was a week too late for that.
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