Bernard Tomic’s straight set loss to Mischa Zverev in the 1st round of Wimbledon 2017 is hardly headline worthy. It’s not exactly an upset result and merely a continuation of the losing trend Tomic has exhibited all throughout 2017. But while the result in itself wasn’t noteworthy, Tomic’s press conference afterwards sure was.
The Australian went on a rant about how he doesn’t really care whether he wins or loses and he doesn’t take any enjoyment from tennis anymore. He went on to say that basically all he wants from tennis is to make enough money to never have to work another day in his life after he retires; he doesn’t care about winning tournament or being highly ranked.
While these statements might come across to many as shocking, they are very… human if anything. Everyone, or at least the vast majority of people, reading this knows at least one person (in some cases themselves) that hates their job but just keeps on going to work every day because they have bills to pay at the end of the month, even though they’d much rather be basically anywhere else. Just because Tomic is a professional athlete making millions, it doesn’t necessarily mean he loves what he does or the lifestyle required to be at the very top of his profession.
Fans always expect athletes to be willing to do everything to get as much of their athletic career as possible. We idolise athletes and expect them to show a drive and commitment that perhaps we ourselves never do in our daily lives. But at the end of the day, being a professional tennis player is Tomic’s job, it’s his livelihood. He’s also a person, with a life and problems outside tennis that might affect his state of mind and priorities; at the end of the day, if all Tomic wants from tennis is financial stability for the future, it’s well within his right to do so and almost certain not to be a unpopular mindset among the ATP and WTA tours.
Of course none of the above gives him the right to be unprofessional on the court or call medical timeouts without really being injured as he admitted he did; he should undoubtedly be punished for that, along with other incidents in the past. It’s not ok to disrespect the game that gave him millions, but it’s ok to not aim for the top and be content with just making money; tennis is not only a job, but a very difficult job. The amount of effort and sacrifice it takes to be top 100 is already immense, let alone to be a player who wins the biggest tournaments and is in the top 10. The amount of sacrifice required to reach that level is something most people just aren’t willing or even capable to do. The likes of Federer, Nadal. or Djokovic are miserable when they lose and won’t stop working until they win. Their entire lives are dedicated to be as successful as they possibly can; but they are the exception, not the norm. Tomic settling for being just a very good pro doesn’t make him a villain, it makes him human and relatable.
The “very good pro” part is something that absolutely needs to be kept in mind; while it’s easy to berate Tomic and claim he’s settling for “mediocrity,” the reality is he has already achieved a lot in this sport and put in a lot of effort into it. As long as he acts professional on the court, no one has the right to demand anything more from him. But at the same time it’s a two way street; as much as Tomic might dislike life on the tennis circuit, it’s still his job and there are rules to adhere to and as long as he continues to disrespect them he’ll deserve all the criticism and punishment coming his way.