It was probably only a matter of time before Australia’s tennis bad boys turned their ill-trained weapons on each other.
The surprising thing is that it’s happened in the one forum where they’re supposed to be brothers in arms. The Davis Cup.
A game away from going two sets down to John Isner in a must-win match, Bernard Tomic let rip at absent teammate Nick Kyrgios, accusing him of faking illness to avoid Davis Cup duties. Which is a bit rich coming from a bloke they call Tomic the Tank Engine.
“Nick’s sitting down in Canberra. Bullsh*t he’s sick,” he said at the change of ends.
It’s Bernie’s standard defensive play. Things aren’t going so well, oh look over there.
And look, it’s nice that at such a pivotal point in the game, he was focused on his teammate’s welfare. And at least he didn’t suggest that Kyrgios had slept with Isner’s girlfriend. So there are some positives we can draw from the outburst.
But yes, it’s not exactly where his head should have been at in such a critical moment.
Newly minted captain Lleyton Hewitt tried to remind Tomic he had an actual tennis match to play. No doubt he was also trying to recall which part of his own contract stipulated babysitting duties.
It could have ended there. All Bernie had to say in the post-match press conference was that he was letting off a bit of steam under pressure and comment no further. End of story.
Except that’s not how Bernie does public relations. If there’s a wound to be opened, scratched and allowed to fester to the point of amputation, he’ll go there.
So in the press conference, his captain by his side, Bernie didn’t staunch the flow like they advise in the medical handbooks. He stuck the scalpel in further. And gave it a twist.
This wasn’t the first time Nick had skipped Davis Cup citing illness, he said. There was last year against the Czech Republic, he said.
“If he plays Indian Wells, then he’s definitely lost a little bit of my respect,” he said. Which started a furious debate on social media as to whether there’s a worse fate in life that losing Bernard Tomic’s respect. (There is but no one could quite pinpoint it).
At this point, Lleyton Hewitt was trying to recall which part of his contract stipulated excrement shovelling duties.
He waded in valiantly. “There’s no doubt he was sick,” he said of Kyrgios’ no-show. That’s code for shut-the-hell-up-Bernie.
Most charges with a skerrick of media training would take the hint. Except that’s not how Bernie does public relations.
“But it’s just weird,” he insisted. And blathered on again.
At this point, a look came over Hewitt’s face suggesting he’d prefer to be in more mature company. Like at home with the three kids when they’re all mid-tantrum. Where there’s an outside chance someone might listen to him.
And then, of course, Kyrgios rose from his sick bed to respond. On that most subtle of media vehicles, Twitter. Of course he did.
Phew, thought Hew. That’s not so bad. Could’ve been a whole lot worse.
Five minutes later, it was.
OK, not so good. These both came after a tweet Kyrgios had the grace to delete. To which the answer is Tomic and 28 minutes.
At which point, Lleyton Hewitt tried to recall which part of his contract might be flimsy enough to get him out of this captaincy hell hole.
As leading tennis commentator Ben Rothenberg noted: “Good golly these blokes.”