Bernard Tomic has backed out of a clash against fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin. Pic: Michael Klein
Bernard Tomic has backed out of a clash against fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin. Pic: Michael Klein

Tomic ducks explosive Hewitt rivalry

FOR the second time this month Bernard Tomic has walked away from a potential showdown with one of the players he alleged has received special treatment from Aussie Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.

With Australian tennis still recovering from Tomic's explosive accusations that "nobody liked" Hewitt in the Aussie Davis Cup system, Tomic on Monday pulled out of an intriguing showdown with rising star Alexei Popyrin.

The 19-year-old boom server was one of several players to have received wildcard entries into last month's Melbourne Park grand slam, despite having a lower-ranking than other Aussie players, including Thanasi Kokkinakis, who had also put their hands up for direct entry into the main draw of the men's singles.

Fuel was poured onto the fire surrounding Hewitt's decision to overlook Kokkinakis for the Davis Cup tie when Tomic declared both Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios had told him that they also don't want to play for Hewitt.

Tomic declared in an explosive press conference that Hewitt had "ruined the system".

Hewitt responded by confirming both Kokkinakis and Kyrgios had recently failed to meet new behaviour and performance standards he had introduced to the Aussie Davis Cup system.

Popyrin, Marc Polmans, Alex Bolt, Jason Kubler and James Duckworth were the beneficiaries of the Davis Cup friction when they were all awarded wildcards at the Australian Open.

Bernard Tomic has pulled out of the Mexican Open. Picture: AAP
Bernard Tomic has pulled out of the Mexican Open. Picture: AAP

Hewitt's selections were in many ways justified as both Bolt and Popyrin won through to the third round of the event.

Tomic was supposed to have his first showdown with one of the Aussie players in the Aussie Davis Cup team on Monday at the Acapulco Open in Mexico, but he instead withdrew from the event.

Tomic retired from the ATP Tour event without stepping out onto court to face Popyrin in the final round of qualifying for the main singles draw, despite earlier defeating Mexico's Lucas Gomez in the first round of qualifying.

Popyrin is now through to the main draw, despite having played just one set of tennis after Spain's Roberto Ortega Olmedo also retired early in their qualifying match.

Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, John Millman and Jordan Thompson have all secured a spot in the Acapulco main draw.

The Popyrin-Tomic clash was further charged by Popyrin's decision to play doubles with Hewitt at the New York event earlier this month - where Tomic was also playing in the singles draw.

Tomic was also one match away from facing Thompson in New York but lost to American John Isner one round before they were scheduled to clash.

The same thing happened at the Delray Beach Open, with the pair experiencing differing fortunes at the ATP event.

Bombs away.
Bombs away.

Thompson enjoyed a first round 7-5, 6-1 win over Germany's Marcel Granollers at the Florida tournament, while Tomic went down to Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-4 7-5.

World No. 68 Thompson played doubles with John Peers in Australia's recent Davis Cup qualifier victory against Bosnia Herzegovina. A regular in the squad, he is seen as being very much in Davis Cup captain Hewitt's camp.

Tomic is not.

Hewitt brought the simmering scandal back to life earlier this month when he issued Tomic a stinging rebuke in New York, saying he would only watch Tomic's match because he was on track to face Thompson.

The bitter Tomic-Hewitt feud all traces back to 2010 when, as Bernard's father John put it, Hewitt tried to pressure him into revealing who at Tennis Australia was "against" him.

"He sat me down and said, 'You're not playing Davis Cup mate tomorrow. Unless you tell me these things'," Bernard said on 60 Minutes earlier this month.

He said he felt "intimidated" and "harassed"

Gotcha.
Gotcha.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley issued a statement saying the organisation was not aware of any incident or complaint of improper behaviour from 2010.

But that's a statement John has refuted, stating he complained about the alleged bullying of his son at the time but was ignored.

The verbal grenades were lobbed between Tomic and Hewitt throughout the Australian Open with both dropping serious allegations against the other.

When Hewitt finally responded to Tomic's explosive press conference, he alleged Tomic had threatened him physically and also threatened his family and has attempted to blackmail him since their relationship breakdown.

"I did message him, threatening, I said exact words I said was, 'if you come one metre from me I will knock you out'," Tomic said.

"And he knows that, 'if you ever try talk to me, come one metre from me.' I stand by that. But did I mention his family? That's pretty low.

"I stand by my threats towards him, but not to his family, which has nothing to do with nothing.

"That's so wrong. For him to say that, that's really low. To go that low and make me look that bad, that's really low.

"Now the fact that he's said that; if he comes two metres from me."