MELBOURNE, Australia — Trying to understand the mind of Bernard Tomic can, at times, feel like a fool’s errand. The 21-year old Australian talent has an indisputable IQ when it comes to his tennis, but when it comes to how he handles his career, things can get a little jumbled.
He’s been perceived of putting in less than 100 percent effort in his matches, earning himself the nickname “Tomic the Tank Engine” by the Australian press, but Tomic claims it’s all part of his plan.
“I sort of use it sometimes as a weapon,” Tomic told reporters during his pre-tournament press conference. “I sort of zone out for a few games, try to use it to my advantage to come back in. It’s helped me in the past a lot, I should say.”
Even if he uses it as a tactic, Tomic isn’t exactly ecstatic about his reputation as a tanker.
“Effort is only between you and you,” he said. “You can’t judge effort. No one can judge effort, I think. Only the person that’s doing the task or the sport they’re playing can judge effort.”
Based on his tone and body language throughout the pre-tournament press conference, Tomic is clearly disappointed he drew No. 1-seed Rafael Nadal in the first round of the Australian Open, and it doesn’t sound like he has much faith he’ll pull off the upset. However, he’s been playing well the last two weeks, reaching the final of the Sydney International, and isn’t completely giving up hope.
“Everything is possible,” he said of his chances against the world No. 1. “I’m playing well. I’m pretty confident. I’ve just got to play the tennis I played early throughout Sydney. Obviously if I can do that I’m going to give myself a chance. … He’s going to be very intimidating to play. You just have to stay with him. I mean, he is human. He does make mistakes, obviously, not as much as the other players, but I’ve got to play very, very good tennis to have any chance.”
One upside to the tough first round match is the lack of pressure. The two have only played once, with Tomic taking a 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 loss at the 2011 Australian Open.
“I mean, you just go out there, you’re playing against No. 1 in the world, you try to have fun and use the moment because he is a champion,” he said. “What he does is so difficult to play against. I have to be on my game, really embrace the moment, have fun, go for my shots.”
Regardless of the outcome, Tomic is focusing on the big picture. Outside of Australia and Wimbledon he’s been a non-factor during the year but he hopes to turn that around in 2014. It’s all about whether he can stay committed to the work ethic that has brought so much success at home.
“I’m going to use it as an opportunity,” he said. “Whatever happens ‑ win, lose ‑ I’ll take a lot from this match. It’s going to help me 2014 a lot because obviously I’ve had the past two years where I haven’t done well throughout the year except just tournaments like Wimbledon and Davis Cup. I need to keep this attitude up.”
Tomic takes on Nadal in the first night session match on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday.