Peter FitzSimons: Tomic needs to strengthenhis mind to beat the pain

Bernard Tomic speaks to the doctor during his match against Rafael Nadal. Photo: Pat Scala
Bernard Tomic speaks to the doctor during his match against Rafael Nadal. Photo: Pat Scala

Look, my medical knowledge could be written on the back of a postage stamp. And it is possible – perhaps far more than possible – that the injury sustained by Bernard Tomic last night, which saw him pull out after just one set against Rafael Nadal, would also have stopped Lleyton Hewitt, John Newcombe, Rod Laver et al under exactly the same circumstances.

But, frankly, I doubt it.

Like millions of Australians watching last night I was at least reminded why he has attracted the unfortunate sobriquet of Tomic the Tank Engine (motto: “I think I can't, I think I can't. I can't! I can't!”).

Prima facie, how bad could the injury be?

Not so bad that he couldn't take four games off the No.1 player in the world! (Oh, for an injury like that.)

Not so bad that, in the post match press conference, he couldn't think it possible that he might be back “in just a few days.”

It doesn't sound like they had to call 000 from the dressing room, does it?

And who really thinks that with the same injury, if up 6-4 against the no.50 player in the world, Tomic would equally have pulled the pin?

I frankly don't, while fully expecting to hear the news within hours that some medical expert or other will confirm it is very grave indeed, so yah-boo sucks to we narks.

Of course, there is no way of knowing the truth, and all of the above is no more than speculation from one who – I repeat – has zero medical knowledge.

But Tomic did not attract the Tank Engine sobriquet for no reason. He has form, and no less than John McEnroe has accused him of it. A fair judge, I would have thought?

And as someone noted on Twitter last night – when I put most of the above views – it was hard to go from watching Hewitt fighting with every ounce of energy he has in him, over 4 hours and 40 minutes in crippling heat, to just go down in five sets, and then tune into the Tomic surrender, which was all over in three-fifths of no time at all.

Particularly when you know that Hewitt has never pulled out across 59 grand slams, and Tomic has pulled out in two of the last four!

All this, and then Tomic turns up at the press conference, with a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Just Do It”. To me, that rather looked like a wardrobe malfunction.

To those who say this criticism is an example of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, give me a break. Newcombe is a tall poppy, as is Laver as is Hewitt – all of whom have displayed over the years, hearts the size of Uluru. Tomic is not even close to a tall poppy.

The bottom line is, to really get behind Australians in sport, you want to see, you want to believe, that they are fighting with the last ounce of energy they have in them to win, particularly when trying to prove themselves against the world's best. And Tomic did not display that last night.

I wish him well, and note that he is only young. After a difficult start, Lleyton Hewitt is one who has captured the support of most Australians and I, for one, deeply admire the spirit with which he plays. And from the beginning, Hewitt always displayed that fighting spirit. No one ever said, “Hewitt-blew it”.

At the moment, Tomic looks like a prodigious talent who has a long way to go to develop the mental strength to do that talent justice. He could learn a lot from Lleyton Hewitt, but it would amaze me if he ever asked.

This story Peter FitzSimons: Tomic needs to strengthenhis mind to beat the pain first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.