The Bernard Tomic odyssey is about to take centre stage at Melbourne Park.
A curious summer filled with social media content – one training video had opera music over the top of it – bleached hair and quotes about re-dedicating himself to tennis is about to have actual matches as part of it.
The former world No.17, now ranked a comparatively lowly 260 in the world, will start his campaign on Tuesday to qualify for the Australian Open main draw for the second-straight year.
Tomic, 29, is one of 28 Australians in qualifying across the men’s and women’s draws andRussian Roman Safiullin, fresh from playing in the ATP Cup, is the first of three players he needs to beat this week.
The qualifying event returns to Melbourne after being held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
There is significant interest about what sort of form Tomic is in, given he won a grand total of 17 games across his last five matches against opponents ranked 125 or lower.
But Tomic, who arrived in Melbourne in recent days after a five-week training stint on the Gold Coast, wants to give his tennis career one last shot in an attempt to return to the top 20.
“I’ve had a lot of hate in my life. But I can’t give up. You don’t think I see the hate comments? It hurts,” Tomic said in a video on Instagram in December.
“In the past, I used to let it get to me and react out of stupidity. But now I’m using it as fuel. I’m back, I’m hungry and I’m ready. No-one can stop me now but me.
“I’m training, I’m sweating, I’m pushing, I’m fired up. Whatever it takes to get back on top. Hard work pays off. I’ve put my blood sweat and tears into this sport.
“I have come back before. It’s time to set the record straight.”
Among Australia’s other leading contenders to qualify are Marc Polmans, Max Purcell, Jason Kubler, Andrew Harris, Arina Rodionova, Ellen Perez, Lizette Cabrera and Destanee Aiava.
Matt Ebden, Edward Winter, Akira Santillan, Philip Sekulic, Rinky Hijikata, Li Tu, Tristan Schoolkate, Dane Sweeny and James McCabe are other Australians in the men’s draw.
Jaimee Fourlis, Catherine Aulia, Abbie Myers, Zoe Hives, Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz, Taylah Preston, Talia Gibson, Kim Birrell, Alexandra Bozovic and Seone Mendez are the other local women’s hopes.
Play starts at 10am on Monday at Melbourne Park.