MELBOURNE • Bernard Tomic's on-court commitment has come under renewed scrutiny after the Australian played match point holding his racket backwards in defeat by Fabio Fognini at the Madrid Open on Tuesday.
Tomic, down 0-40 as Italian Fognini sought to serve out the match at 6-2, 5-4, held his racket by the head with the handle pointing forward and barely moved as his opponent fired an ace past him to seal the win.
News of the stunt triggered a storm of criticism in his home country and on social media from tennis pundits. "Bernard Tomic has stated before he believes he is a top-10 player, but he won't be top-10 in anyone's books with continued displays of petulance like this," the News Ltd media said.
The world No. 22 was nicknamed "Tomic the Tank Engine" after accusations that he "tanked" - or failed to try his best - in a loss to Andy Roddick at the 2012 US Open.
The 23-year-old also holds the record for the quickest loss at a Masters-level tournament on the ATP Tour after being smashed 6-0, 6-1 in 28 minutes by Finn Jarkko Nieminen in Miami in 2014.
Tomic came under fire in the lead-up to the Australian Open for retiring during his Sydney International quarter-final after telling the chair umpire his mind was on the year's first Grand Slam. He later claimed to have suffered food poisoning.
He created further controversy during a Davis Cup match against the United States in Melbourne in March when he publicly criticised team-mate Nick Kyrgios for withdrawing from the tie with illness.
Yesterday, Kyrgios won through to the third round in Madrid following a 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-2) win over Switzerland's world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka. The world No. 21 was solid and kept his temper in check as he prevailed over his old foe.
Last year, he got a suspended 28-day ban and US$25,000 (S$34,000) fine after making lurid remarks about Wawrinka's girlfriend during their match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
On Tuesday, 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal stretched his perfect start to the European clay-court season to 11 matches with a routine 6-3, 6-3 win over Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov to reach the third round.
Fresh from victories in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, the Spaniard will continue his quest for a fifth title in Madrid against American Sam Querrey or France's Lucas Pouille today.
On the women's front, fourth seed Victoria Azarenka withdrew with lower back pain yesterday, handing a place in the quarter-finals to qualifier Louisa Chirico.
The world No. 5 from Belarus, winner of back-to-back March titles at Indian Wells and Miami, had advanced at the Caja Magica with a pair of straight-set wins, losing just 11 games.
Her pullout came on the day that holder and two-time champion Petra Kvitova lost in the third round, going out to Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-4.
Azarenka joins Roger Federer in pulling out of one of the final major tune-ups before the May 22 French Open due to back problems.
"I tweaked my back in my first match, it was cold that day," said Azarenka. "In my second match, I was in a lot of discomfort. I thought a day off would help but today, during a hit, it came back again."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ATP MADRID OPEN
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