Tomic’s attitude holds him back

It’s make-or-break for the Australian when he takes on Andy Murray in singles today

THE problem with losing semi-finals in the Davis Cup, just like any other sporting competition, is that nobody remembers you or your team. So as an Australian who fears the worst in Glasgow today, I’d implore Bernard Tomic to take note of the effort being put in by Andy Murray across the net and try to emulate his effort not just today but in his future tennis career.

You have to admire Murray’s dedication to duty. He desperately wants his British team to succeed, and to play in every minute possible to ensure success.

Yet now the massive weight of responsibility falls upon the 22-year-old shoulders of Tomic, and I wonder if he is up to the task. He dodged a bullet against Dan Evans in Friday’s singles and can just be thankful the match didn’t go into a fifth set, because he was physically spent.

After a day to rest and recuperate, Tomic must get out there again and prove to me that he has the fight and application to match his talent.

From where I was sitting, a simple case of nerves drained him of what energy he had and, as we saw with Serena Williams in the US Open, that can be debilitating. A big lumbering guy such as Bernie can ill afford to have lead weights in his shoes due to nerves.

The Davis Cup does that to you. It’s a bigger test than anything you find on the main ATP World Tour because you are not just playing for yourself. You are carrying the hopes of your mates and your country, and you know that adds up to a lot of people. Though Bernie has a good Davis Cup record, he has registered plenty of his wins against lesser players.

Murray is several classes above Tomic and, I’m afraid to say, Bernie will have a serious wake-up call today. I’ve known him since he was 12 years old and came to the academy that I was running in Hope Island, Queensland. His talent was never in any question — his ball control was very special even back then. The problem was he wasn’t interested in putting in the physical work, the hard yards as we call them in Australia.

Even at such a young age, a player has to show physical application to the task of being a real competitor. Unfortunately, Bernie’s ever-imposing father had a master plan which didn’t involve his son being with the other kids. Bernie had the belief instilled in him that he was too good to either spend time with his peers or do the hard work.

He never wanted to participate in the drilling with the kids of his age. Because he knew that he was better than them, he was more interested in playing sets against coaches who were more than twice his age. I saw enormous potential but also danger signals that in years to come he would rely purely on his talent.

To be a top tennis player you need the full toolkit: skill, near-perfect technique on all strokes, mental toughness, and physical toughness. It is clear Bernie has most of the attributes needed but there’s serious work to do to consistently make him a top contender.

The British captain, Leon Smith, has been clever in taking full advantage of his prerogative of selecting a slow-paced surface, putting plenty of sand in the paint for the top coat on the court to best help Andy Murray’s game. And he’s chosen the heavier Wimbledon ball, which again favours his man.

I’ve gone into a few decisive third days of big Davis Cup ties in my time and to my way of thinking, they were what the sport is all about. Murray has played Tomic twice before on the ATP World Tour and the results both times were pretty emphatic, a 6-3 6-1 win for the Scot in Miami two years ago and a 6-3 6-2 victory in the Brisbane semi-finals a year earlier.

Tomic’s supporters could put forward a reasonable argument that Bernie was a relative youngster then but he isn’t anymore. He’s at a stage where he has to take responsibility, and the day-to-day standards of Murray’s effort is required. I think I know what the outcome will be today and, as an Australian, I’m afraid I fear the worst.