Australia hoping bad boys come good in Melbourne

Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:15am EST
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic gave Australia an unwanted reputation as a breeding ground for tennis brats during a tempestuous 2015 and the pair will be firmly under the spotlight in front of home crowds at Melbourne Park.

With former world number one Lleyton Hewitt set to retire and the last of his two grand slam titles at the 2002 Wimbledon championships a distant memory, Australia has long yearned for a new force in men's tennis to challenge at the majors.

Tomic, 23, and Kyrgios, 20, have both been tagged as the future of the sport in the country but the excitement generated by their undeniable talent gave way to dismay last season as the pair hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Following a Wimbledon campaign where Kyrgios railed at match officials and was jeered by fans for appearing to tank a game in defeat to Richard Gasquet, the hot-headed tyro sunk to a new low during the U.S. hardcourt season.

His lewd, off-the-cuff remark directed at Stan Wawrinka during their match at the Rogers Cup sparked worldwide condemnation and a suspended ban from the ATP Tour.

Australia's number one Tomic was also a lightning rod for criticism at Wimbledon, where he launched a jaw-dropping tirade against his home tennis association, complete with character assassinations of some of its most senior managers.

Banished from the Davis Cup team for a second time in his career, Tomic was later apprehended by Miami police for trespassing and resisting arrest after hotel guests complained of a noisy party in his room.

Though the charges were later dropped, local media were quick to link the Miami incident with a number of brushes with the law in Australia, where Tomic has had his drivers' license canceled after a number of speeding offences and once clashed with police following an infamous brawl in a roof-top jacuzzi.   Continued...

Nick Kyrgios of Australia returns the ball to Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain during their men's singles tennis match at the Japan Open championships in Tokyo October 8, 2015.   REUTERS/Thomas Peter