Tennis Australia (TA) says the door is open for Bernard Tomic to return to the Australian Davis Cup squad, despite Lleyton Hewitt declaring he would never play again while he was captain.
But TA chief executive Craig Tiley admitted Tomic was a “long way” back if he wanted to be considered for selection in the future.
The public spat between Tomic and Hewitt dominated headlines in the first week of the Australian Open, with the Queenslander calling on his former teammate to step down as Davis Cup captain.
Hewitt responded by saying Tomic would not play Davis Cup under his captaincy, while accusing him of “blackmail” and making “physical” threats towards him and his family.
Tiley said he believed Hewitt’s comments were made “in a time of the highest level of emotion”.
He said Tomic would never be barred from representing Australia in Davis Cup, but talks would have to take place with Hewitt if he wanted to be selected.
“As far as I’m concerned the doors are always open for players to compete,” Tiley told Grandstand.
“Bernard is back a long way. He’s got to sit down and have a conversation with Lleyton to get an opportunity to do that.
“You’d want them to have that conversation and Lleyton is the captain of the team and that will happen at some point.”
While feeling Hewitt was speaking in the heat of the moment, Tiley could not question the former world No.1’s passion for Australia’s Davis Cup team.
He also said Hewitt was not out of line to select himself for doubles rubbers while a captain, as suggested by Tomic.
“He wants to put a team on the court every time that gives him the best chance to win the tie and that decision is up to him,” Tiley said.
“If he makes the decision with the team that he is the best person to put out on the doubles court because that is the best chance to win the tie then they’ll [selectors] all agree and they have and that sometimes doesn’t get played out fairly publicly.
“I’m pretty confident that the last few ties that we’ve played, Lleyton has put the team out there that is the most ready, the most prepared to win the ties.”
Tiley was hopeful Tomic would turn his career around, saying he had squandered his talent that was evident when he won an Australian Open main-draw match as a 16-year-old.
“There’s still upside, there’s still opportunity,” Tiley said about Tomic, who is now 26.
“It’s not all doom and gloom. He’s young still.”
‘Misunderstood’ Kyrgios needs to improve his behaviour
Nick Kyrgios was also implicated in the Davis Cup soap opera, after Tomic claimed the 23-year-old was one of several Australian players who disliked Hewitt.
Kyrgios later took a swipe at Hewitt on social media about his decision to watch Alex de Minaur play a third-round match at the same time fellow Australians John Millman and Matt Ebden were also on court.
The Canberran’s behaviour during the early stages of his career has polarised the Australian sporting public and Tiley said he would have to shape up if he was to realise his immense talent.
“These athletes are the CEOs of their own organisation and they make their own decisions,” he said.
“Our influence on being able to change that or anything else is marginal if best … It’s not like being on a team where your teammates can bring you into line.
“We of course would like to see Nick maximising his talent, doing what we expect an Australian athlete to get out there and compete for. But I can only talk to my experiences with Nick Kyrgios and they’ve always been good.
“Off the court he’s fantastic, gracious. He makes himself available to talk to kids and I think he’s misunderstood in that space.
“As a player on the court we want to equate everything to that same behaviour off the court and he’s got to cross that bridge because he’s got the ability to do that and, at some point, he’s got to make that decision.”