Lleyton Hewitt. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Lleyton Hewitt. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Hewitt whacked over Tomic presser

Lleyton Hewitt went just as hard at Bernard Tomic as the controversial star went at him in two press conferences that have rocked the Australian Open. And not everyone is happy about it.

Hewitt had been backed into a corner by the world number 88 when he levelled serious accusations of bias and misconduct at the Davis Cup captain after bowing out of the opening grand slam of the year in the first round.

Hewitt, 37, faced calls from the tennis media to respond - and after an underwhelming interview with host broadcaster Channel 9 - finally fronted the press pack, albeit after being eliminated from the doubles competition on Thursday.

Seated beside playing partner John-Patrick Smith, Hewitt savagely returned serve at Tomic, revealing the personal abuse he'd experienced at the hands of the Queenslander, which included allegations of physical threats and blackmail.

Hewitt's claims, which also included alleged threats against his family, including wife Bec, dominated the headlines on a day the number of Australians who qualified for the third round grew to five with upset wins by wildcards Alex Bolt and Alexei Popyrin.

And not everyone was happy at Hewitt's spotlight-stealing interview, including his former coach Roger Rasheed.

"I wouldn't have said a word," Rasheed told SEN SA on Friday morning. "We want that stuff to be played out behind closed doors. We should be celebrating what's on the court. Tennis Australia will need to deal with all this."


Channel 9 broadcaster Tony Jones also delivered a frustrated rant on Today, which was mainly directed at Tomic for creating the firestorm but also didn't miss Hewitt.

"I can't believe we are sitting here on a morning when we should be celebrating the fact that five Aussies are through to the third round and talking about things like that," Jones said.

"To me, it is very, very sad when you have people like Rod Laver, who the main stadium is named after sitting court side most days, you have got ornaments like Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, who was just class personified when she played, and yet we have this wave of tennis players who are fortunately on the way out.

"I am not having a go at Lleyton Hewitt per se, by the way, I am having a go at the Bernard Tomics of this world. Bernard, pack your bags and go away. Really, you are a blot on the Australian sporting landscape and the more this is played out, the more Tennis Australia needs to intervene and say, 'Enough is enough'.

"I know we (Channel 9) are a corporate partner, (but) Tennis Australia is sitting on its hands and it needs to do something now. Like today."

"You call them together and say, 'Enough is enough'," Jones added. "They've got to call them in and say 'enough is enough, Lleyton, don't do that'.

"In a way Tennis Australia is its own worst enemy for allowing Bernard Tomic to get away with what he got away with early in the piece. They should have cracked down on it instead of being a toothless tiger and cowtailing it.

"I know Tennis Australia won't like that. Nor will some of my bosses, but the simple fact is they have to do something so we don't have the De Minaurs of this world and the Bolts of this world becoming the petulant brats some of these others have become."

Tomic, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2011, followed his first-round loss at the Australian Open by saying Hewitt should quit as Davis Cup captain because he favours certain players and is unpopular with others.

Hewitt, a two-time major winner, said their conflict originated more than a year ago with disagreements over whether he should grant Tomic wildcard invitations for tournaments.

Hewitt said he won't allow Tomic to represent Australia in the Davis Cup "while I have anything to do with it."

"For me, it was probably the abuse that I caught from him that, yeah, in the end I drew a line in the sand," Hewitt said, adding that there was little chance of reconciliation.

"No. No. I think the threats that I've received, for me and my family ... I don't think anyone would reach out to a person that speaks like that."

Hewitt didn't go into specifics about the alleged threats, except to say it revolved around wildcards and Davis Cup selection and that he didn't feel personally threatened.

Asked if the threats were physical or verbal, Hewitt said it was both. Asked if he felt the threats were empty, Hewitt replies "Yes."

Hewitt won the US Open in 2001, Wimbledon in 2002 and helped Australia win Davis Cup titles in 1999 and 2003. He became Davis Cup captain in 2016, soon after retiring from singles.

He said he'd tried to establish "cultural standards" for players representing Australia, and Tomic "hasn't really been close to those in the last couple of years."

"The biggest frustration is I feel like I really went out of my way to help Bernie ... spent a lot of time with him one-on-one at a lot of tournaments," Hewitt said. "Tried to get a coaching structure around him to give him the best opportunity. He still kept making the wrong mistakes."

The current friction in Australian men's tennis contrasts with the gentility of past stars like Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall and more recently, the likes of Pat Rafter overruling line calls and giving points to his opponents long before video replays existed.

Australian men's tennis is now marked by social media rants and embarrassing on-court comments. And, to make matters worse, few decent results from the senior players.

- with AP