Are Rafter, Roche, Woodbridge and co. good enough?
Tomic has been told to pick up his game by Rafter, or risk losing his Davis Cup spot. (AFP: Cameron Spencer, file photo)
Are Rafter, Roche, Woodbridge and co. good enough? That is the huge question after the Australian Davis Cup team lost once again in the World Group Playoffs, this time against Germany in Hamburg on clay last week.
This comes a year after the exact same team for Australia lost to Switzerland in Sydney on grass.
In both ties, Bernard Tomic won a singles match, while Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione won the doubles match, that’s it.
In both ties, Bernard Tomic was critisised by either captain Pat Rafter, or coach Tony Roche, or both.
However, the fact of the matter is that in both of these ties, Tomic was the only singles winner for Australia, so they (Rafter, Roche and Todd Woodbridge, who is the national men’s coach, overseeing the male development pathway) can’t blame Tomic for all the problems they have.
Watching on television the scenes of Roche angrily and animatedly speaking to Tomic during the sit down – and Tomic’s reaction to it – was an awful, awful site.
It wasn’t good behaviour from Roche, doing loads of harm to team morale. If you thought the Germans had rifts, Australia’s problems take it even further.
Roche’s dramatic outburst at Tomic’s play is not the first time someone high profile with in the tennis structure in Australia has criticised Tomic. Rafter has also criticised on numerous occasions, while Woodbridge has said similar things before the US Open about his work ethic, in a manner which suggested he was frustrated and had no answers to it.
Lleyton Hewitt’s analysis of Tomic is different and quite accurate. Hewitt said in an article by AAP on the Sydney Morning Herald website after Tomic’s loss to Roddick:
“He’s a unique player… His ball-striking is unique. Some of his shot selection is unique… There has been matches, probably more so at the Aussie Open, that he’s been able to turn matches around because of that…
“The Verdasco match, for example, looked like he was struggling there for a while and he was able to turn that around… And even against Dolgopolov in the Aussie Open as well. That’s him and his personality a little bit as well.”
Hewitt also said that the way Tomic plays the game gave the impression that he wasn’t giving 100% in terms of effort, which I believe is spot on the money. Hewitt’s outstanding analysis of the game is in stark contrast to the analysis of Rafter, Roche and Woodbridge.
This leaves Hewitt, Rafter, Roche, Woodbridge and the Tomics (both Bernard and John, his dad and coach) all at odds with each other. It is clear there is a rift between all these parties, which is becoming toxic for all involved, as well as for men’s tennis in Australia.
Rafter, Roche and Woodbridge all seem to have same opinion about Tomic, but are clearly not doing anything about it. These three are quite clearly living in the past, and still believe Hewitt is the future of Australian tennis.
Yet, Hewitt disagrees with his current coach Roche and his former Davis Cup teammates Rafter and Woodbridge. He seems to know that they are using the Tomics as ‘punching bags’ to hide and disguise their shortcomings in their roles of Davis Cup captain, coach and national men’s coach respectively.
However, Hewitt is struggling to get this message through to the hierarchy of Tennis Australia and the stronghold grip that Rafter, Roche and Woodbridge have on the Australian Davis Cup team and men’s tennis in general.
These three might explain their achievements since they have been in these roles, but the truth is that Rafter, Roche and Woodbridge have failed at their roles, miserably.
Woodbridge might say that there are good young players coming along under his leadership, like James Duckworth and Luke Saville. However, the best young player coming through in Australia is Tomic.
Has the progress from Tomic from 2011 to 2012 been good enough? That answer is clearly no. That is the fault of the national men’s coach, not of John Tomic or Bernard Tomic. Epic fail for Woodbridge.
Roche might say that he has helped Hewitt keep on playing, despite his numerous injuries. Yet, has he helped the other members of the team, including Tomic, to perform to their potential? That answer is no. Epic fail for Roche.
Rafter, well he has no excuses, because a Davis Cup captain should be able to motivate his team to perform well. However, he has struggled to handle the pressure of the job, especially in the ties against Switzerland and Germany, leading 2-1 in both, but unable to close out the deal. This struggle to handle pressure has also been evident in his playing career. Epic fail for Rafter.
It is quite clear that these three have to be removed from their positions, and Hewitt must be installed as the Davis cup captain for Australia, ASAP.
He understands the modern player, as well as the actual game, better, so he can play out of the team better than the other three.
On Bernard Tomic, he needs to get into the gym and work on is his movement and getting more pop on his serve. If he works on this exclusively, straight after the season for a month, he will be a top five player very quickly, and will win a Grand Slam title just as quick.
Every other part of his game is extremely good, especially his backhand, which is going to be a world-class one. His forehand is unique, but very good. If Tomic works on his movement and getting more speed on his serve, he is too good a player to fail.
As for Rafter, Roche, Woodbridge and Tennis Australia, are they good enough to be in these positions? The answer for all cases is an emphatic no.