Did Tomic Tank?

By Jane Voigt

September 1, 2012 -- Well, Andy Roddick didn't retire. Instead he won, extending life as he's known it for twelve years thanks, in part, to a dreadful performance by Australian teen, Bernard Tomic.

Tomic, in his press conference, faced pointed questions, first generally and then specifically, about his efforts on his first taste of big-time tennis in New York on Arthur Ashe Stadium court against made-for-night-time-TV Andy Roddick. (They had never played each other.)

Initially he focused on Andy's game. "He played very good. He served well. I couldn't do anything really."

Tomic admitted his nerves were well in gear. Then he seemed to blame the court surface, saying the ball bounced higher than on outer courts, and that he couldn't 'get a hit' on Ashe all week. 

Reporters honed their questions.

Reporter: "Why did you feel you couldn't do anything? Pretty big statement to make." 

"Well, I wasn't looking up, that's for sure. More I looked up, the more I realized how many people were there."

They brought his attention to the face that crowds didn't arrive until set two.

The cat-and-mouse exchange went on, as Tomic continued to announce what he didn't have in order to play his best tennis: Andy's serve, the cavernous venue, and the bounce. 

Had these three obstacles been removed, then, Tomic would've shown more of his stuff, which is quite good for a kid his age. Is that correct?

Because just over a year ago, Tomic arrived at Wimbledon as a qualifier. He worked his way through to the quarterfinals, and even took a set off the eventual champion, Novak Djokovic. Tomic had become the youngest quarterfinalist at Wimbledon since Boris Becker in 1986.

Djokovic mentioned how comfortable Tomic apparently felt on Centre Court. That he handled everything that was thrown at him. 

A year later, Tomic told tennis columnist Simon Chambers, "I had a little bit of pressure last year but not so much now. I've learnt to relax and just play tennis. I think when you play pressure tennis, and you think too much, you don't play good. For me, when I relax I play my best tennis."

So, again, what happened last night on Arthur Ashe?

Reporter: "What happened in the last set?" (match scoreline 63 64 60)

Tomic blamed Roddick's serve.

Andy Roddick lets loose on an overhead smash against Bernard Tomic last night on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court. Roddick, in his last tournament of his career, beat the teenager in straight sets. Photo Credit tennisclix.com

On air, John McEnroe was relentless. He intimated that Tomic looked stiff, as if he was frozen, and that in the final set he was borderline not trying. Tomic agreed.

But then another reporter, an Australian reporter, mentioned tanking. He said, "They made a pretty big deal of it on the last set, tanking, all that stuff."

Tomic's reaction, whether feeling more comfortable with an Aussie or boiled over from the tone of prior questions, let rip, "Really? What do you think?"

Reporter: "I'm not sure. I think your relaxed style sometimes people get the wrong impression." 

Tomic asserted that that was his game style, asking 'Do you have a problem with that?' Tomic asked for the guy's name, who he was with, and, "I'll remember you." 

Why Teen Tomic agreed with McEnroe's backhanded comment of 'borderline not trying' and then went off the handle after a direct question around tanking is odd. 

We will probably never know the details. However, in June at Wimbledon Tomic admitted that his real problem was lack of effort. "To be honest," Tomic said, as reported by The Daily Telegraph, "I haven't been really working hard the last two months. The effort that's been costing me this tournament and the past two months has been probably my lack of effort." 

Tomic dropped from #30 to his current #42 since then, after loudly announcing that he was ready to take on the top 10. His style of tennis does test the fashionable baseline crunching rallies we see most often. 

"If you look at the guys," Tomic again told Chambers, "80 to 90 percent of the Tour is exactly the same. That's why they struggle against my game because I take a bit of the normal out of tennis." 

Last night Tomic did nothing to impress his aging, soon-to-retire opponent. If his nerves locked up his legs that's one thing, but if he blames the court surface, lack of practice on the court, Andy's serve, and the enormous crowds on his refusal to shake off nerves and apply his brilliance then Tomic presents himself as much younger than his years. 

Was Andy Roddick bothered by the lackluster Tomic?

Reporter: "Did you feel like he had given up by the third set or was overwhelmed?"

"I don't know," Roddick said. "I wasn't too concerned about what was going on over there. I liked what was happening on my side of the court, and I just kind of wanted to continue that. I wasn't too concerned."

Roddick hit 13 aces, was 79% on points won off his first serve, and 83% off points from his second serve. His fastest serve was 139, and he won 70% of his net points: 23 out of 33 approached. 

Maybe Andy Roddick should retire more often. And unlike his young opponent, Roddick thought the stadium felt smaller than he ever had in the past. "It almost felt cozy for once. It's a big place for that."

Although Tomic thinks he ready for the big boys, he proved last night that he wasn't. The hard work that his opponent has put in on courts and off over 12 years could be something to admire or a road map for success for the Aussie. That's if he doesn't want to be badgered in his press conferences about tanking and a bagel third set that ripped by in just over 15 minutes. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013