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Let's face it, Bernard Tomic isn’t one of the most popular tennis players out there. 

Run-ins with the police and the tennis establishment coupled with his own statements around effort, money and other players never exactly warmed him to the general public. 

So, why am I coming to his defence?

Well, since he faded from the top tier of tennis, he has made efforts that are at least worth acknowledging. 

Bernie came on to the tour with a flash. At 16 he won his first Grand Slam match at the Australian Open and just two years later became the youngest player to make the quarter-finals at Wimbledon since Boris Becker. 

He won four ATP titles, reached a career-high of no.17 and had an impressive 17-4 record in Davis Cup matches. 

The decline

The wheels started falling off in 2017 when he dropped out of the Top 100, was fined for stating he didn’t try at Wimbledon and lost his racquet sponsor Head. 

After failing to qualify for the Australian Open he hit a new low by appearing on I’m a Celebrity…. Get Me Out of Here and lasting just three days. 

After a brief comeback that year where he re-entered the Top 100 with a title win in Chengdu, he has struggled to break back into the top tier of tennis ever since. 

He fell to 825 in the world in 2022 and his career looked destined to finish. 

The comeback

However, something changed for Bernie at that point and he began a legitimate comeback. 

He grinded out wins on the Futures circuit, the third level of professional tennis, across Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean. 

Title wins in Cancun and Santo Domingo were netting him around US $2,000 each, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of dollars won at tournaments in his prime. 

He climbed his way back into the Top 500 and spent 2023 travelling across the globe to almost 30 tournaments. 

More Future title wins came, as did more consistent results across the Challenger circuit for him to climb back into the Top 300 of the world. 

Why this should be acknowledged

‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘This is what thousands of players are doing in year-in-year out, what makes Tomic so special?’

Well, there’s one thing climbing up through the circuit, there is another thing to fall from the Top 20 and spend years grinding it out. 

Bernie can get media attention easily with controversial opinions and other players and personalities have found a living by leaning into that persona.

For Tomic, he clearly wants to continue playing tennis and get his career back on track. 

In 2023, he earned just US $40,000 for a year. He certainly isn’t doing it for the money.

Unfair press coverage

Over the years, he has received deserved and some not-so-deserved criticism in the press. 

However, this year when he was not given a wildcard to the Australian Open some reporters ridiculed him for playing a lowly ITF tournament in Chennai, India. 

Sure, it showed a “fall from grace” in terms of his former tennis life, but it also showed a determination to try and get his career back on track. 

At that tournament, he spoke about the comeback.

“I played a lot of matches. I missed a lot of tennis for three years. I was not playing that much. And my physical fitness went down. It took me a little bit of time to get into rhythm. But now, I'm playing pretty good. But I still need to play a little bit better to get back to the top," he said.

2024 is looking up

He won that tournament and continues to improve in 2024. This month he secured his best result in many years by making the semi-final of the 125 Challenge in Mexico City, taking out fellow Aussie Omar Jasika along the way. 

He reached 248 in the world, his highest ranking in almost three years. 

He is hopeful about the year ahead, telling Sportskeeda earlier this year:

“I feel like I can play really well, the next couple of years, especially given my style of play. I don't use up a lot of energy in the way I play. So I think the top 100 is very achievable for me. Even top 50. But still you need to stay healthy, do the right things. This next year will be interesting. As long as I stay healthy and keep practising, I think I should be okay, let's see.”

Give him a break

Is he the hero of Australian tennis that should be lauded for his comeback efforts? 

Not necessarily. 

But a player who had his troubles, both self-inflicted and not, willing to do what it takes to get his career back on track should at least be respected. 

He has had troubles in his personal life at times which he has alluded to saying: 

I also struggled for three to four years. I've managed to turn it around and feel better mentally. When you travel from a young age for many many years, it really can get to you mentally. The sport can really drain you. You need to figure out what's best for you mentally and always find a way to be positive and move forward. In tennis, you need to be mentally in a good state.”

You may not like the guy, but give some credit where it’s due. 

It’s doubtful Bernie make it all the way back to his former career highs.

However, there’s still fight left in the 31-year-old and that’s the attitude his supporters and tennis lovers have wanted to see for a very long time.


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