Tennis Australia’s head of performance has painted a grim picture of what awaits Bernard Tomic if the one-time grand slam quarter-finalist continues his spectacular fall from grace with an early US Open exit.
Tomic takes on 19th seed Gilles Muller, the Wimbledon slayer of Rafael Nadal, on Tuesday morning needing to win to avoid a catastrophic rankings hit after his season from hell.
The former world No.17 hasn’t played since his controversial first-round Wimbledon exit, when he was fined a record $US15,000 for saying he was “a little bit bored” after a decade of tour grind.
Tomic cited a foot injury for withdrawing from a series of events since but has arrived in New York feeling “ready to go” after training hard for a month in Miami.
But, already at a crossroad, if he doesn’t perform at the season’s final slam, Tomic faces a torturous road back to the elite.
As his former Davis Cup captain and now TA’s director of men’s tennis Wally Masur put it, a loss to Muller “leaves him where it leaves everyone else ranked 150: just having to get down into the Challengers and just fight, play hard”.
“He’ll have no choice,” Masur told AAP.
“It’s like breathing. He’ll have no choice but to knuckle down because he’ll be ranked 150.
“When you’re 150, you’re looking for (rankings) points. You can’t coast at any part of the year.”
As Andre Agassi will attest to after the all-time great once slipped to 141st in the rankings before climbing back to world No.1, there’s nothing glamorous about life on the Challengers tour.
“It’s not quite as nice as going to Miami and Indian Wells, Monte Carlo and playing the 1000-level tournaments, and you’re playing this new breed of players,” Masur said.
“You run into your Shapovalovs and all these type of characters, players who are just incredibly hungry and they don’t respect reputation — and you’ve got to earn it.”
Masur maintains Tomic, a teenage prodigy who won two grand slam junior crowns and his first main-draw match at the Australian Open at 15, remains top-five material.
But he’s unsure if the 24-year-old is prepared to fight his way back.
“You never know what’s in someone’s head. You really don’t. You can’t step into their shoes,” Masur said.
“The only thing I’ll say is, I’ve sat courtside with Bernie at Davis Cup playing some big matches and the talent in his hands is top five. It really is.
“I spent a year with him in Davis Cup and I don’t think he mis-hit a ball in a year.
“He is freakishly good in aspects of the game. We know that.
“So can he do it? Yes he can.
“Does he want to do it? That’s the question.
“How badly does he want it?”