Thursday 20 June 2019

'Tomic is threatening me,' says Hewitt of drama Down Under

The vicious row at the heart of Australian tennis escalated yesterday after former Wimbledon champion and Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt accused Bernard Tomic of threatening him. Stock image: RTimages/Getty Images
The vicious row at the heart of Australian tennis escalated yesterday after former Wimbledon champion and Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt accused Bernard Tomic of threatening him. Stock image: RTimages/Getty Images

Simon Briggs

The vicious row at the heart of Australian tennis escalated yesterday after former Wimbledon champion and Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt accused Bernard Tomic of threatening him.

The animosity between these two has dominated the front and back pages in Melbourne 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.

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

Cultural

"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. It was probably (after) 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.

"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, adding that he viewed the alleged threats as "empty", and said 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 any more."

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 talks to me, I'll knock him out'." Hewitt added yesterday: "I don't know why Bernie's Bernie. It's probably his upbringing."

One thing that 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."

Hewitt added yesterday: "For me, the most disappointing (thing) is (that) on day one we had these great wins by a lot of our guys and all these Bernie comments overshadowed it. It's one clown making a silly comment, and that is the main news."

Meanwhile, Milos Raonic overcame Stan Wawrinka in their gruelling four-hour clash to triumph 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (13-11), 7-6 (7-5).

Novak Djokovic won a rematch of the 2008 Australian Open final 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to set up a third-round clash with 19-year-old Denis Shapovalov.

In the women's game, Serena Williams eased to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Eugenie Bouchard to reach the third round. Johanna Konta left Margaret Court Arena in tears at 3.16am local time after losing 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 to Spain's Garbine Muguruza.

It was a grim way to go, and Briton Konta was understandably vexed by the terrible scheduling.

"I don't agree with athletes having to physically exert themselves into the wee hours of the morning," she told BBC Radio 5 Live a few minutes later. "I don't think it's healthy. I think it's quite dangerous."

Konta had found herself walking on to the court at 12.20am in Melbourne. The schedule had become absurdly overstretched thanks to three of the four previous matches all going to a deciding set. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Australian Open, Live

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