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'It's a slippery slope.' The problem with Bernard Tomic's $81,000 Wimbledon fine.

When the news broke on Thursday night that Bernard Tomic had been stripped of his entire Wimbledon prize money for his lacklustre efforts during his first-round loss, most, if not all, of Australia rubbed their hands in glee.

Finally. After almost a decade of bearing witness to his poor behaviour on and off the court, Bernard Tomic finally got what he deserved for a performance that has been described as “appalling”, “pathetic” and “embarrassing”.

“Well done Wimbledon” was the overwhelming consensus, with many people going a step further to proclaim that he should be banned from the sport.

Tennis player Bernard Tomic tells The Project he thinks Tennis Australia is corrupt. Post continues. 

Video by The Project

The Australian public has long tired of the whole Tomic schtick and his $81,000 fine for his 58 minute game against France’s Jo Wilfried-Tsonga – the second shortest men’s singles match in Wimbledon history – was to many such delicious schadenfreude.

“It is the opinion of the referee that the performance of Bernard Tomic in his first round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not meet the required professional standards, and therefore he has been fined the maximum amount of £45,000, which will be deducted from prize money,” a statement from the club read.

Tomic, who is currently the world number 96, is expected to appeal, having dismissed accusations that he had not tried when grilled about his performance during his post-match press conference.

He admitted he played “pretty bad” and that he was  “terrible” in falling victim to 21 aces from Tsonga.

Once considered Australia’s best tennis prospect in his youth, Tomic, who made the quarter finals of Wimbledon in 2011, is now renowned for his questionable displays on the tennis court.

The 26-year-old was similarly fined $20,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct after he admitted to feigning an injury in his first round-defeat at Wimbledon in 2017.

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He was famously nicknamed “Tomic the Tank Engine” all the way back in 2012 during a US Open loss to Andy Roddick.

Then came the unbelievable 28 minutes loss to Finn Jarkko Nieminen in Miami in 2014, which stands as the record for the fastest loss at a Masters-level tournament.

So Bernard Tomic has form – and of course, he never helps himself with his surly arrogance during interviews.

So when Wimbledon laid down the largest fine for an on-court offence, it was met with widespread delight.

Here was a man – who has spent years making a mockery of such a beloved sport, who’s amassed enormous amounts of money, who has revelled in the public anger against him, and who, above all else, has gotten away with it for so long – finally getting his comeuppance.

But despite the public’s glee, his fellow tennis players have taken a different view – and they may have a point.

To his first round opponent Tsonga, the heavy fine not only undermined his victorious performance but it was clear that Tomic’s reputation had “of course” played a part.

“That’s touchy because they will do that with him and not with others, and I think it’s a little bit too much,” Tsonga said.

He added: “I will say it’s also, for me, it’s like what I did was not win.

“It’s like me was just here and I just won because they said he didn’t play enough.”

Nick Kyrgios called the fine “outrageous”.

“I mean, one, Tsonga is an unbelievable player. Two, I think people kind of when they watch Bernard, they just think because he moves a little slow, plays the game a little slower, he doesn’t look maybe as engaged as, I don’t know, say, a Carreno Busta or something. They just assume he’s maybe not trying or giving 100 per cent,” he said.

“He earned his right to be in the draw. He played the whole year. He’s obviously winning enough to be at the most prestigious tournament in the world.”

Compatriot John Millman echoed Kyrgios’ comments, while also pointing out that it was immensely difficult to prove a player is trying their best (or not).

“Bernard, at times, when you look at him play – and I played him in Estoril – he’s not the most intense player,” Millman said.

“We’re kind of polar opposites. Some people probably say I’m kind of over-intense on court.

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“And some people function better when they actually keep a bit of a low intensity.

“I’m not sure of the ins and outs – what I will say is that I think it’s really hard to gauge, to make a judgement call like that.”

American women’s champion Sloane Stephens also questioned the fine, suggesting it’s a “slippery slope” for tournaments to judge a player’s efforts.

“I could see if he lost 0, 0, 0, then that would be something,” Stephens said.

“But he won four games, he played a 6-4 set. I think now if the tournaments are going to be their own judge and they’re going to do that, then I can’t say I’m 100 per cent on board.

“It’s a very slippery slope, and when you start doing that and being the judge of what happens and how people earn a living, that’s when it gets a little tricky.”

Look, nobody is going out of their way to defend Bernard Tomic; he’s divisive and controversial for a reason, and watching him play certainly doesn’t inspire much love for the sport, especially when there are so many Aussie men and women who lay everything out on the court to win.

There’s also no doubt Tomic appeared unmotivated and listless when he played Tsonga, but to his fellow players on tour, his heavy penalty wasn’t fair.

Because there’s no objective criteria for what constitutes trying hard enough. And they know that.

They’ve been where Tomic is before. They’ve experienced form slumps, they’ve been off their game, they’ve been overawed by top players, leaving them with a dreaded love score.

They’ve all played games where the person standing on the other side of the net is simply playing the best game of their entire life and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

Sure, nobody is saying Tomic did that. And he’s probably never done that.

But should we start judging (and fining) players purely by perceived effort? His fellow players believe no.

Tomic qualified for Wimbledon, he earned his place to be there. He wasn’t handed it. And then he played a poor first-round game against a good opponent in Tsonga, who is a former Wimbledon semi-finalist.

As New York Times‘ sports writer Ben Rothenberg tweeted, “Style points have never been a part of tennis. You either win or you lose. You get paid either way.”

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