Bernard Tomic is a talented 24-year-old Australian who turned pro almost a decade ago and, perhaps relatedly, has a notoriously bad attitude. He’s been accused of tanking, faking injuries, and occasionally being an unmotivated brat on the court. Earlier this week at Wimbledon, he lost the first set, put out minimal effort in the second, and eventually sulked his way to a straight-set, first-round loss to Mischa Zverev, after which he admitted he was bored and disillusioned with tennis.
“It was definitely a mental issue out there. I felt a little bit bored, to be completely honest with you. It’s tough, you know...I’m 24. I came on tour at 16, 17. I have been around and feels like I’m super old but I’m not. I’m still 24 and it was tough to find motivation out there.”
In response to a reporter’s question about whether he would give back the £35,000 in prize money for appearing at Wimbledon, Tomic scoffed and said “we all work for money.” He also said that “at 34, maybe, I can donate to charity.” Then he asked whether Roger Federer would give away his “500 million dollars.”
Tomic is ranked 59th in the world, and over the course of his career he’s made about $5 million. Between travel, lodging, taxes, supplies, coaching and gear, that prize money can go fast. Though Tomic once bragged about being worth $10 million, he hasn’t won a title this year and he’s clearly frustrated—and perhaps even low on funds. He might’ve felt like it was easier for him to give up, declare himself “bored,” collect the check and go home, than admit he’s not good enough to win. If that’s the case, he should’ve been more subtle about it. Today, the International Tennis Federation fined him $15,000 for his play and his post-match comments, and his racket sponsor dropped him. (Nike remains a sponsor.)
Tomic wouldn’t have been the only player this tournament to be quietly suspected of playing for money alone. At Wimbledon this year, eight players retired from their first-round matches with injury, two of which came back-to-back on Tuesday. Both Roger Federer’s opponent Alexandr Dolgopolov and Novak Djokovic’s opponent Martin Klizan retired with nagging injuries. Another player, Feliciano López, pulled out of his first-round match against Adrian Mannarino with an injury, but played in a doubles match the next day. The abbreviated matches frustrated fans who wanted to see the tennis they paid for. But for players, especially lower-ranked journeymen, it makes sense to get your checks when you can. In 2013, Forbes tracked the finances of a player ranked No. 92 in the world, whose career was governed by careful accounting and the hopes of making it into a main draw at a Grand Slam, where the prize money is an assured boon.
Earlier this year, the ATP began testing a new rule that allows injured players to withdraw but still keep the first-round prize money, while a lucky loser takes their place in the draw. Federer suggested this rule be implemented at Grand Slams, too. Per the BBC:
“The question always is, should they have started the match at all?” said Federer.
“That, only the player can answer really, in my opinion. You hope that they would give up their spot for somebody else, even though they deserve to be in there, but fitness not allowing them.
“Maybe the Grand Slams should adopt some of that [the ATP rule], then maybe we would eliminate maybe half of the players [who retire],” said Federer.