Tennis: Tomic's ex-sparring partner happy to work with 'normal' people

LONDON (AFP) - Thomas Drouet, the former hitting partner of Australian star Bernard Tomic, labelled the player's father as a "mad, evil manipulator" on Wednesday.

He was left with a broken nose after being allegedly attacked by John Tomic in a late-night brawl in Madrid on May. Tomic senior is now facing a criminal trial to be held in the Spanish capital in October.

Drouet has since severed his links with John Tomic, who has also been banned from all tournaments, including Wimbledon, where the Frenchman has helped steer Marion Bartoli into the singles semi-finals.

"John Tomic is a mad, evil manipulator," the 30-year-old Drouet said.

Finding himself without a job, he pitched up at the French Open in May and approached Walter Bartoli, the father and long-time coach of the French No.1 who will face Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens in Thursday's semi-finals.

"I called him and the same evening, Marion sent me a message and the day after that, we started working together. I was happy to have found some normal people. It was a big change for me," said Drouet.

With Walter Bartoli not at Wimbledon, Drouet has found himself with a major role to play with the 15th seed along with France's 2006 Wimbledon champion and former world No.1, Amelie Mauresmo.

"We have known each other since we were children, that makes it easier. But from the start, I have been more than just a hitting partner. They wanted something else, an outside opinion."

Despite his absence from London, Drouet insists that Bartoli senior is happy with his 28-year-old daughter's progress, as she sets her sights on a second Wimbledon final following her runner-up finish to Venus Williams in 2007.

"I don't give her orders, I am not her boss. We talk a lot. She's a very intelligent girl and very human. We take the job seriously but when we are finished, we go to the restaurant and kid around," he added.

It's a different atmosphere from his days with the Tomic camp where he described his role as a "stooge".