LONDON (Reuters) - A lack of discipline has led Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios to hit the “self destruct” button and their behavior is tarnishing the image of Australian tennis, Ken Rosewall told Reuters.
The 20-something tearaways have long been tipped for grand slam glory but, after several years on the tour, the sum total of their achievements is three quarter-finals at the majors. Along the way, they have also paid lots of fines for their bad behavior.
Last week, Tomic was fined $15,000 by the sport’s governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), after saying he was “bored” and had faked injury during a listless first-round defeat at Wimbledon.
His comments led to him being dropped by his racket sponsor Head.
Kyrgios, similarly, has said he struggles to stay motivated and was fined $16,500 by the ATP, which runs the men’s Tour, last October for purposely throwing a game away during his second-round defeat by Mischa Zverev at the Shanghai Masters.
Such lack of respect for the sport does not sit well with 82-year-old Rosewall, who did not earn a penny in prize-money when he won his first four grand slam titles during the 1950s when the majors were only open to amateur players.
“I feel a lot of us older players, who came from tennis-playing families, we learned to play the game and behave,” Rosewall, who is in London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Wimbledon Pro event, told Reuters in an interview.
“Plus the fact there was more discipline then. When I first came overseas, Harry Hopman was the captain and coach of the team. Our team was made up of players of 17, 18 and 19 years of age and he was like a father figure.
“The players of today, because they’ve made more money, they think that they don’t need that discipline, and misbehave accordingly,” Rosewall added as he enjoyed the city’s skyline from the ninth floor of his London hotel.
Rosewall and his Australian band of brothers - Rod Laver, Fred Stolle and the late Lew Hoad - appreciated the opportunities that playing tennis brought to them.
Asked if he felt the behavior of Tomic and Kyrgios reflected badly on the legacy created by his generation, Rosewall said: “That’s pretty accurate. I’d say that.”
“Us older Australian players are really disappointed in their actions. It seems like they both couldn’t care less. I don’t know,” Rosewall said, shaking his head.
“You could probably go to all of the Australian players you can think of that have represented Australia in Davis Cup, we’d all say the same thing.”
Kyrgios and Tomic were at loggerheads with Pat Rafter when he was Australia’s Davis Cup captain and he ended up axing Tomic from the national squad for the men’s team competition.
Having shown little respect for their peers, the tournaments they play in, the fans or Tennis Australia, Rosewall felt Tomic’s and Kyrgios’s families should have pulled them up on their bad-boy antics.
“They (Kyrgios and Tomic) both talked to Pat Rafter when he was a bit more involved (as Davis Cup captain) and he got upset because they didn’t seem to be taking any notice or didn’t care,” said the eight-times major champion, who will be in the Royal Box on Friday for the Wimbledon men’s semi-finals.
“They are not getting any proper support from their family. I would have thought Kyrgios’ family should have said something to him about his behavior.
“And the same with Tomic. But he’s had problems with his father, who’s had problems with a lot of other people and it seems to have gone from bad to worse. They’ve self-destructed alright.”
The failure of the current crop of players means Australia has not won a men’s grand slam title since Lleyton Hewitt triumphed at Wimbledon in 2002, the longest barren run since Norman Brooks claimed their first Wimbledon title in 1907.
Rosewall felt Tomic’s behavior was especially disappointing because “a lot of money from Tennis Australia” has been spent on him and he said the player’s attitude could backfire.
“The other day Tomic said: ‘Well, I’m going to play for another 10 years, then I’ll have enough money and then I can finish’.
“With his behavior and not trying, which he has admitted to, no one’s going to want him to play in their tournaments,” Rosewall said.
“If you are putting up good prize money as sponsors, they won’t want to take the risk that he’s going to misbehave or won’t try.”
Tomic and Kyrgios could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Ken Ferris