Bernard Tomic isn’t done yet.
For a man who’s never been shy about telling the world how little interest he has in tennis, the Australian bad boy sure does have an unusual career plan.
The 28-year-old is one win away from an Australian Open berth, needing to beat countryman John-Patrick Smith in his third and final qualifying match in Doha to secure safe passage through to the main draw at Melbourne Park in February.
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Tomic has scraped through two tough three-setters to get this far — one against Slovakian Jozef Kovalik and another against Aussie teenager Tristan Schoolkate, who failed to take advantage of a match point before losing in a third-set tiebreak.
Once tipped as the next big thing in Australian tennis, with the self-proclaimed potential to win grand slams, Tomic’s career fell off a cliff and he’s now ranked 228th in the world, relegated from the bright lights of the ATP Tour.
The former world No. 17 has previously said he’s been “trapped” by tennis, doesn’t love the sport, treats it just like a job and would prefer to sit back and count his money — but perhaps some of his appreciation is slowly coming back.
Ahead of his match against Smith, Tomic said he can see himself playing until his mid-30s — a claim that would surprise anyone who’s followed his career.
Maybe the lack of travel during COVID-19 lockdowns has reminded him there is still some joy to be found in the sport he’s played since childhood.
“I didn’t get to see an aeroplane for like 10 months. That’s been the best thing,” Tomic told AAP. “Spending almost two decades travelling is tough.
“So I feel like now I’ve rested, I’m ready and I’ve given myself a chance to put in at least another, let’s say, four, five, six … seven years.”
“I ain’t got to play to 38, 39 — there’s some guys out there playing at that age, there’s no chance that’s me.
“But seven years done — 35? If I’m still top 50, top 100 then yeah, I’ll keep playing.”
Even Smith thinks his compatriot has what it takes to keep going, the pair having joined forces to practise together in Qatar as Australian Open qualifying rolls on.
“He definitely has the style of game to play on until he’s 35 — big serve, big first ball — and I reckon he will,” Smith told AAP.
“And he definitely has the tennis brain and tennis IQ to go that far.”
Of course, playing until that age is easier said than done for Tomic, who has never been the fittest player on tour and whose body has let him down of late.
There were promising signs in December when he qualified for the final of a UTR Pro Tennis Series event in Brisbane, only to pull out of the decider with back soreness.
Tomic’s new relationship with OnlyFans star Vanessa Sierra has made headlines in recent months but it seems tennis is back to being a priority in his life.
“I was never the fittest guy, man, never put the work in like these other guys but we’ll have to see,” Tomic said. “I’m one match away (from the Australian Open) and then I can have a couple of weeks off.
“I had back issue in recent games and that went away after seven days, so I’ve only been able to do a couple of hours a day, when I’d like to have put in three or four, but I’ve been on the right track for the last couple of months.
“But it’s good having had time off, not having played much tennis from March through October. So this last six, seven weeks I managed to — let’s say — do the right thing.”