Bernard Tomic admits the furore around his decision to skip the Rio Olympics has been distracting leading into the French Open, but he’s adamant his loyalty to Australia cannot be questioned.
The enigmatic Tomic made the call earlier this month to play an ATP event in Mexico, which has replaced a title he won in Bogota last year, rather than put his hand up for the Rio Games in August.
The decision came after Tomic earned a rebuke from Australian Olympic team boss Kitty Chiller in the wake of tanking accusations at the Madrid Open where he faced match point by attempting to return serve with his racquet handle.
When asked if the process in opting out of the Olympics had proven a distraction, the 22-year-old said: “It was, because there was a lot of press about that and I chose to go (play in Los Cabos).”
Tomic understands the perception his decision creates but hopes it doesn’t cloud the wider view of his loyalty to Australia, noting his dedication to the Davis Cup cause.
Tomic has been a consistent performer in the green and gold and, with a 16-4 winning record at Davis Cup level, is certain to be key in team captain Lleyton Hewitt’s plans for the future.
“My loyalty is always there. For Davis Cup it’s huge and when I’m playing there it’s amazing,” he said.
“My schedule has been very, very tough. What I’ve chosen is the way I’ve chosen. That’s all I can say about that.
“…I’m not going (to the Olympics), I’m going to play another (tournament) and it looks like it’s a bad thing but really my schedule this year has been that way.
“The things I said before, I’ve said what I needed to say about that. We can’t really go into that anymore.
“When that period comes, playing that tournament, I’ll try and win it.”
Tomic will begin his French Open campaign against lowly-ranked American Brian Baker on either Monday or Tuesday, where he hopes to overcome an historically-poor record on clay and has set his sights on a potential third round clash with Roberto Bautista Agut.
Baker has had a torrid time with injuries and, while tagging the clash as “tough but winnable”, Tomic says the American’s current ranking of 631st in the world doesn’t reflect the dangers he will present.
First round exits in Bucharest, Istanbul and Madrid, along with a first-round retirement through illness in Rome, are Tomic’s meagre return on clay this season but he insists that is no cause for concern.
“I felt so comfortable (in Rome) and then I was out for six or seven days (with a virus), so it sucked,” Tomic said.
“But then I trained for the last eight or nine days and I’m happy with what I’ve done.
“My goal is to make the third round here and once you’ve won a couple of matches, you never know.
“I feel like if I can win a few matches here, it’s a very good target.”