Pat Rafter admits it will be a shame if Bernard Tomic walks out on Australia’s Davis Cup team, but says the 22-year-old is old enough to make his own decisions.
Responding to Tomic’s decision to skip Australia’s quarter-final against Kazakhstan next month over a dispute between Tennis Australia and Bernard’s father John, Rafter revealed he stepped down from the captaincy this year partly because some of his young guns were doing his head in.
The former world No.1 and Australian of the Year hopes new captain Wally Masur will resolve the issue with Team Tomic, but says he is staying out of negotiations, especially now so the country’s top-ranked player can focus on Wimbledon starting on Monday.
Rafter, though, has been dragged into the ugly feud due to his new role as TA’s player performance director, with John Tomic furious that his daughter Sara, who won her first professional tournament last weekend in Egypt, receives no financial support from the governing body.
But Rafter won’t budge and says it’s time for Bernard and fellow boom youngster Nick Kyrgios to smarten up to ensure they maximise their immense potential.
“This whole thing with the Tomics has been going on pretty much since I got involved with Davis Cup,” Rafter said in a no-holds-barred pre-Wimbledon interview.
“Because I’ve always tried to tell the boys exactly how I feel and this is how it is and if you keep going down these particular paths, these are the things that will happen.
“And I just feel like it’s fallen on deaf ears for the last four or five years and so now I just take a step back and watch them unravel, or they just become their own men and deal with it or they mature in time.
“The problem with the young kids having such stardom at such a young age is that they’re probably a little bit immature in lot of ways, and most people are.
“But some aren’t. You look at someone like Rafa (Nadal), who had immediate success and was an incredible ambassador and he never had any problems or hiccups along the way.
“Whereas I look at these two boys, Tomic in particular, you could see it coming and I was just trying to protect him.”
But with Tomic heavily influenced by his coach-father, Rafter felt he was beating his head against a brick wall so he accepted his new job.
The result is no funding for Sara Tomic, who Rafter says he feels for, because TA can’t tolerate John Tomic’s behaviour.
Now Bernard – and Australia’s Davis Cup team – has been compromised.
“So he’s gone about things his way with his father and his family,” Rafter said.
“So I’ve told both the Tomics exactly how I’ve felt in Davis Cup arenas and outside of that and just trying to get them to realise that there are implications for behaviour and not playing hard tennis or giving yourself the best opportunity.
“So this has been coming to a head for a little while.”
Rafter said “it would be a shame” if Tomic went ahead with his Davis Cup boycott.
“But there’s not much we can do about it. If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t want to play,” he said.
“Bernie’s played ever since I was captain, so he’s into his fifth year. There’s been issues along the way; I kicked him out of one tie.
“I can’t speak for how each individual is and I can’t say ‘I can’t believe you don’t see it the way I see it.’ It’s just the way it is.
“So you’ve got to be your own person and if that’s what makes you happy, then that’s what you’ve got to do.”
While he’s had issues with Tomic and Kyrgios, Rafter described their 19-year-old teammate Thanasi Kokkinakis as the “role model” for Australian tennis youngsters.