Australian tennis row escalates as Lleyton Hewitt accuses Bernard Tomic of threatening him

Simon Briggs
The Telegraph
The animosity between Hewitt (left) and Tomic has dominated the front and back pages in Australia all week - AFP
The animosity between Hewitt (left) and Tomic has dominated the front and back pages in Australia all week - AFP

The vicious row at the heart of Australian tennis continued to escalate yesterday after Lleyton Hewitt – the former Wimbledon champion who is now the Davis Cup captain – accused Bernard Tomic of threatening him.

The animosity between these two men has dominated the front and back pages here all week, with Tomic claiming on Monday that “No-one likes him any more” and even alleging that Hewitt had been promoting certain players – including Australian Open wild card Alex Bolt – and then taking a cut of their earnings.

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So when Hewitt came into the interview room yesterday after suffering a doubles defeat, there was plenty of subject matter to get stuck into.

“We’re trying to set cultural standards for the Davis Cup and representing Australia,” said Hewitt, “and he hasn’t been close to those in the last couple of years. Since then I haven’t had anything to do with Bernie.

“It was probably the abuse I copped from him that I drew a line in the sand and I haven’t spoken to him since. He won’t play Davis Cup while I have anything to do with it.

<span>Hewitt says Tomic has fallen short of the 'cultural standards' expected of Australia's tennis players</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Hewitt says Tomic has fallen short of the 'cultural standards' expected of Australia's tennis players Credit: AFP

“I think the threats I have received for a year and a half now, I don’t think anyone will reach out to a person who speaks like that. Yes, from Bernie.”

Hewitt denied that he benefited financially from any of his tennis decisions, added that he viewed the alleged threats as “empty”, and explained that Tomic – a former prodigy who reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals as an 18-year-old, but has now slipped to No. 88 in the world – was no longer able to contact him. “Yeah, I don’t think he has my number hopefully anymore.”

One source of the ill-feeling in Australian men’s tennis is Hewitt’s closeness to the new national No. 1 Alex De Minaur. Nick Kyrgios also made a sarcastic comment about this on Wednesday, suggesting on Twitter that Hewitt doesn’t watch anybody else’s matches.

“Right now, Nick is not meeting those [cultural standards] either,” said Hewitt. “All we ask for is commit to the sport, go out there and give 100 per cent every time you step on the court.”

Hewitt also criticised Kyrgios’s controversial Twitter posts, which included a furious attack this week on the experienced Australian coach Roger Rasheed.

“I don't think it's a good look,” said Hewitt, who, at 37, is widely seen as the senior pro of Australian tennis. “I've spoken to Nick about it. He understands that. Whether he learns from it, that's another thing.”

<span>Hewitt's relationship with Kyrgios also appears to have soured</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Hewitt's relationship with Kyrgios also appears to have soured Credit: AFP

To return to Tomic, he has not stopped using aggressive language where Hewitt is concerned. “I dare him to come one metre from me if he is a man,” Tomic said this week. “Two years ago, I said ‘If he ever tries to talk to me, I’ll knock him out.’”

Hewitt added yesterday that “I don’t know why Bernie’s Bernie. It’s probably his upbringing.”

One thing that Bernard Tomic shares with John Tomic, his father and coach, is a fondness for brushes with law enforcement. In 2013, John Tomic was found guilty of headbutting his son’s hitting partner Thomas Drouet, breaking his nose and leaving him with a twisted vertebra.

Oddly, Tomic and Hewitt were close for a while in 2016, soon after Hewitt had announced his retirement as a singles player and taken over the Davis Cup captaincy. At Wimbledon that year, Tomic called him a mentor and said “He’s changed me.” Their fallout may bear some connection to a funding debate over Tomic’s sister Sara, the world No. 653, who did not receive the support she had hoped for from Tennis Australia.

“For me, the most disappointing [thing] is [that] on day one we had these great wins by a lot of our guys,” Hewitt concluded, “and all these Bernie comments overshadowed it. It's one clown making a silly comment, and that's the main news.”

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