Paris, May 29: Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic squeezed his upper left arm with his right hand, looked straight ahead and spoke in a level tone about his father, who is also his coach—and was banned from attending the French Open because of a pending assault case.
“He's here right now in Paris, so, you know, he's still working with me, he's still my dad, he's still my coach,” the 20-year-old Tomic said Tuesday. “And, you know, I love him a lot.”
That was part of a 40-second opening statement Tomic delivered at his news conference after retiring from his first-round match at Roland Garros in the third set because of a torn right hamstring. Tomic's father, John, is due in a Spanish court in October, accused of head-butting Bernard's hitting partner in Madrid this month.
The ATP and International Tennis Federation both barred John Tomic from receiving credentials for tournaments. The French tennis federation announced Monday it had told the ATP, Bernard Tomic and his agent that the father would not be allowed onto the grounds of the clay-court Grand Slam tournament, even as a paying spectator.
“Nothing's changed between my dad and I,” Bernard said. “It's still the same.”
After the 61st-ranked Tomic stopped while trailing 7-5, 7-6 (8), 2-1 against Victor Hanescu of Romania, a reporter asked what it was like to not have a coach courtside Tuesday.
“It's a little bit different, but, you know, my dad's still my coach, and he'll always be, because, you know, I grew up with him and he knows me better than everyone else,” Tomic said, while also noting he is considering adding another person to help work with them.
Tomic began playing tennis at age 7. In 2011, at only 18, he became the youngest quarterfinalist at Wimbledon since Boris Becker in the 1980s. Viewed as Australia's most promising player, he's taken a step back, though, making only one fourth-round appearance in the seven Grand Slam tournaments since.
And his nascent career has been marked by off-court issues. In November, he was fined and put on a 12-month good-behavior bond after twice being stopped by Australian police for driving offenses near his Gold Coast home.
“I showed that I can play, but this is the problem at a young age—you're up and down,” he said. “So I've got to just keep working hard, keep trying, because once I get there and get to where I want to be, then there's no stopping me.”
A moderator began Tomic's post-match news conference by saying: “Before we start, Bernard has a few things to say, and we won't be taking questions after his comments, other than on the match, OK?”
Tomic then began: “Hello, guys. I hope you're well. You know, I'd like to say some things before you guys ask me about them—obviously involving my father.”
He added: “Involving the incidents that happened, I don't want to talk about it a lot—at all, if I should say. And it's a very difficult thing for me, you know, to put my words into that. If you can respect all I have to say about this, you know, I'm happy to talk about the match.”
John Tomic had not been seen at the Roland Garros complex Tuesday, French federation spokesman Christophe Proust said.
“We've taken maximum precautions not to let him in,” Proust said, adding that the younger Tomic “was playing on Court No. 6, which is a small court, so it's easy to see who's in the stands.”
The hitting partner that John Tomic is accused of injuring, Thomas Drouet, is now working with French player Marion Bartoli, who won in the first round at the French Open on Tuesday.
“During training and during the match, he helped me a lot,” Bartoli said.
After only three games against Hanescu, Bernard Tomic called for a trainer to work on his right leg. After getting his hamstring massaged, Tomic continued to play but was limping.
“It's very unlucky. I prepared very good to come play here, and the second point, I felt my leg sort of tear and didn't know what it was. It was very strange. I never felt this pain before,” Tomic said.
When he headed to the locker room during a rain delay, a doctor told him the muscle was torn.
“Lucky it's not huge. It's not eight weeks, it's not six weeks; probably just a week or two. So I'm going to try as much as I can to recover” in time for Wimbledon, Tomic said.
Clearly, there is a lot on this college-age kid's mind at the moment.
By the end of his potentially awkward 10-minute session with reporters—a son discussing his in-trouble father—Tomic was making himself smile.
When he was asked whether he felt a bit lost without support Tuesday, he replied with a chuckle: “No, I just didn't feel my leg at all. That's all I didn't feel. So if I hadn't done what I did to my leg, maybe I would have thought about that. But considering that I couldn't feel my leg, that's all I was thinking about.”