There is no shame in losing to Canadian Denis Shapovalov but there might have been a hint of nostalgia for Bernard Tomic as he bowed out of the Australian Open second round on Wednesday in defeat to a young talent on an upwards trajectory.
Like 21-year-old Shapovalov, Tomic was tipped to become a major Grand Slam contender in his junior years and he set Australia alight after making the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finals at the age of 18.
Though claiming four titles in a career many players would dream of, 28-year-old Tomic has never scaled such heights again at a Grand Slam and his world ranking peaked at 17 five years ago.
Clashes with tennis officialdom, an infamous reality TV appearance, and boasts about making a fortune from tennis without even trying hard have marked his steady decline to a current ranking of 233.
Shapovalov, on the other hand, would seemingly have it all ahead of him and he celebrated making his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the U.S. Open last year.
The 11th seed was way too good for Tomic on Court Three on Wednesday, thrashing him 6-1 6-3 6-2 in less than two hours on a hot day at Melbourne Park.
“What is he, 10 or 11 in the world? The guy just played too good. It’s just confidence,” Tomic told reporters.
“When you’re there, focused, at the top, I remember myself playing being in the top 30, top 20. You come into matches, you’re confident over opponents.
“That’s what he had from the start. From the first ball, from the first game, from the first 15 minutes, he didn’t miss a ball.”
Where he was once a teen with hopes of winning Grand Slams, Tomic’s ambitions are now more modest.
Qualifying for the Australian Open and winning a match meant it was a good trip to Melbourne overall, even if his girlfriend, an adult entertainer, was derided widely last month for posting a video on social media complaining that she had to wash her own hair in hotel quarantine.
“Regardless of where I am, I know I’m pretty good, in a good state from taking off tennis for about eight months. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Tomic.
Far from disappearing quietly from the game, Tomic said he would willingly go back to grinding on the secondary tours to earn points and lift his ranking to compete for bigger prizes.
In a moment of defiance, he also returned serve at Australia’s former Davis Cup captain and pundit John Fitzgerald for doubting that he would ever play another Australian Open after this one.
“Of course it is (harsh),” Tomic said.
“But, you know, he’s probably the worst commentator I’ve ever seen in my life, as well.”