Bernard Tomic insists he’s misunderstood and didn’t ‘tank’ against world No.1 Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open on Tuesday night.
The jeering and booing Tomic received after he quit after dropping the first set to Nadal in their much-hyped first-round showdown left the 21-year-old feeling compelled to explain his side of the story on Wednesday.
Tomic said scans had confirmed he has a groin muscle tear that will keep him from playing for up to three weeks, placing him in doubt for Australia’s Davis Cup tie with France starting on January 31.
“It’s just a small one. It’s not that big. But if I had played on it, it would have been 10 times worse, they say, so I could have been out potentially for three, four months,” Tomic said.
“I’m very happy I stopped. It was the right call.”
Even if sections of the crowd at Rod Laver Arena initially didn’t quite agree.
“Obviously they thought I was shaking Rafa’s hand because he’s too good and I’m forfeiting the match because I can’t play against him,” Tomic said.
Dubbed “Tomic the Tank Engine” after admitting to only giving “85 per cent” in a match in Shanghai in 2012 and also collapsing against Andy Roddick at the US Open, the two-time junior grand slam champion said it was important to explain his mid-match retirement to his home fans.
“A lot of people showed up last night, expecting a very good match,” he said.
“A lot of people paid their tickets. It’s disappointing for that to happen.
“The form I was in, I was ready to challenge Rafa and unfortunately this happened.
“I felt like I got booed a little bit on court, which was pretty unfair.
“I just needed to get my side out, which is obviously the truth and it’s important.”
Asked if he felt misunderstood by the Australian public, the polarising youngster said: “Well, yeah.”
“I think everyone sort of looks at you differently. Being good, being talented and being young is something that I had and have.
“Obviously I have had these issues in those past, but you’ve got to focus. You’ve got to learn how to handle it.”
Tomic was eager to remind the public that he was still only 21 and trying to make his mark during a golden era of men’s tennis dominated by Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, the winners of 38 grand slam titles over the past 10 years.
“People expect you to be 10 in the world now, five in the world. Doesn’t work like that,” Tomic said.
“You look at the players now in the top 10, they’re the best tennis players to ever live playing in one sort of era.
“You have amazing top 10 players. It’s difficult to get there. You have to earn the position.
“It’s difficult to get in the top 15, top 20. You have to work for it.
“I got close and then I sort of slipped back. I had points to defend. I didn’t know how to handle it.
“But I’m learning. One day, when I’m there – and I know I will be there very soon, there is no stopping me – I know I’ll keep going forward.
“But I’ve got to work hard.”