MELBOURNE (AFP) - Australia's top player Bernard Tomic on Sunday defended his controversial pull-out from the Sydney International, insisting he was sick and was not just saving himself for the Australian Open.
Tomic, whose 2015 season was marred by on- and off-court controversies, was trailing Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 3-0 when he withdrew on Friday.
He was heard talking with the umpire about the draw he had just received for the Australian Open, and how he had little to gain from playing on in Sydney, sparking media criticism.
Tomic, in good form this year, insisted he was not well and his pull-out had nothing to do with saving himself for Melbourne Park - and he also hit out at the media's coverage of the story.
"You know, other players did pull out that week, who were also ill. Unfortunately with me, given my bad reputation in the past, things have happened," he said. "I think it always gets a little too big. You know, just being sick, (it's) maybe a little bit disappointing the way that you guys (the media) sort of went about it.
"It's unfortunate it had to be like this. I said the honest truth. That's the most important thing, that I was sick. I'm happy you guys can finally understand."
Tomic is no stranger to controversy. During the past year he clashed with Tennis Australia and was suspended for a Davis Cup tie.He was also arrested over a raucous penthouse party in Miami.
However, Tomic is also seeded for the first time at Melbourne Park, at 16, and he gets his Australian Open underway against Uzbek Denis Istomin on Tuesday.
"With this position now being seeded, it gives you that opportunity of avoiding seeds. It's a good feeling," he said, adding that he was now feeling "almost 100 per cent".
"Definitely something I deserved over the last year with my results on tour in 2015. I think I'm very confident the way I'm playing the last 10 days. I'm very excited for the start of this Australian Open."