Bernard Tomic; Australian Open hopeful smashed in shameful qualifying display

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Bernard Tomic has wilted in the heat of Australian Open qualifying (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
Bernard Tomic has wilted in the heat of Australian Open qualifying (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic’s colourful return to the court ended inside an hour on Tuesday, and included a stunning mid-match rant to the umpire about Covid testing.

After a summer filled with promises about re-dedicating himself to tennis, 29-year-old Tomic ran into a no-frills Russian opponent, Roman Safiullin, who was in no mood to give the Australian a leg-up.

Safiullin, the world No. 146, breezed into the second round of Australian Open qualifying 6-1 6-4 at Tomic’s expense, perhaps ending the prospect of us seeing more dramatic social media content.

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Tomic fell apart in the opening set, losing in 23 minutes, and entered into a colourful exchange with the chair umpire shortly afterwards at the change of ends.

Not a great day for Bernard Tomic. Picture: Graham Denholm/Getty Images
Not a great day for Bernard Tomic. Picture: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

He seemed convinced he would soon test positive for Covid, and refused to do anyu post-match interviews because of his on-court comments.

“I’m sure in the next two days I’ll test positive, I’m telling you,” Tomic said to the umpire.

“I’ll buy you dinner if I don’t test positive in three days. Otherwise you buy me dinner.

“I cannot believe nobody’s getting tested. They’re allowing players to come on the court with rapid tests in their room. Come on.

“No official PCR testing.”

It didn’t help his cause and Tomic appreciatively clapped the crowd as he trudged from the court, knowing he’s a mile off his former top-20 self.

There was genuine support for him at Melbourne Park’s new Kia Arena as fans roared for every winning point – but such points were few and far between early after he held serve in the second game.

Even that game included a mixed bag of aces, double faults and groundstrokes landing barely halfway up the net, as he took some time to shake his rust and lethargy.

Safiullin, fresh from beating Australia’s James Duckworth and pushing international stars Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner at last week’s ATP Cup, painted winners all over the court.

He also tested Tomic’s fitness with a number of drop shots that the Queenslander sometimes didn’t even bother trying to chase down.

Gentle sledging started from the stands by the time Safiullin cruised to a 4-1 first-lead, with more than one OnlyFans reference after his cameo on the subscription video site last year.

A feeble backhand return into the net sealed a lightning-fast opening set and he walked straight off court for a toilet break.

The end looked nigh when another Safiullin winner broke Tomic’s serve for the third time in a row, but the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finalist managed to offer more resistance from there.

A shirtless Tomic muttered “so disappointing, so disappointing” at the next change of ends, before engaging with the chair umpire with his testing rant.

There was a break-back opportunity in the sixth game, when Safiullin double-faulted three times – but Tomic couldn’t capitalise.

His first serve tended to top out short of 180km/h and his movement was mostly laboured but he was more competitive and increased his level in the second set.

Only Tomic knows what’s next but months overseas, almost certainly at no better than Challenger level, await him if he is true to his word of wanting to climb the tennis world again.

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