Tennis Prose



Johnson and Tomic Resume Rivalry In Fairfield

Steve Johnson and Bernard Tomic are fighting for career survival now.

The two clashed this week at Fairfield CA Challenger R32 and the 33 year old American defeated the 30 year old Aussie 63 16 61.

Both are currently ranked outside the top 200 – Steve is at 227 and Tomic is 295.

This was their fourth meeting, they played three previous times on the ATP World Tour and Johnson won all three. All three previous duels were contested in 2015. Johnson won in Halle 63 76, Washington 67 64 62, and Tokyo 63 21 ret. All four of their matches happened in the round of 32.

I was witness to the Washington DC match on court 2 in early evening. It was a memorable clash of styles battle with an interesting anecdote late in the first set. During one long game with multiple deuces, perhaps close to ten deuces, Tomic did something funny. He suddenly approached the chair umpire and asked him if a possible record for deuces in an ATP match had been broken, and if he knew what he record for deuces was? Tomic, in the middle of the heat of tennis warfare, suddenly was more interested if a new deuce record had been set.

I don’t think anyone understood what was happening but I heard the entire exchange between Tomic and Johnson. It was one of the funniest but most unprofessional incidents I ever saw in an ATP match. However the light-hearted moment did not contribute enough to relax Tomic and inspire him to continue to play at a high enough level to score the win vs Johnson. Tomic’s fun and games might have cost him the match It was the then 25 year old Johnson in his third year on the ATP World Tour who subsequently ground Tomic down for the three set victory.

The match was a kind of microcosm for their careers – the overachieving, harder working blue collar American outfighting the more naturally gifted but wasted talent, former ITF top junior who has disappointingly not lived up to the very high expectations since he turned pro in 2008 at age 15.

Both have achieved fine careers. Each has won four ATP singles titles. Johnson has earned over $8m, Tomic over $6. Johnson has won 197 ATP matches, Tomic has 186 ATP victories.

But one will always wonder how much better and accomplished Tomic would have been if he possessed the work ethic, serious mindset, and business-like professionalism of Johnson.

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  • Cory · October 11, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    Well said, Scoop. I too appreciate the professionalism and work ethic of Johnson – while he can be streaky like anyone else, you rarely see him break down mentally or beat himself. He’s very likeable in interviews too. Tomic indeed more talented but… well, we know that story. Tomic is still young enough for resurgance at 30, tho.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 11, 2023 at 9:31 pm

    Cory, I don’t think so for Tomic, it’s over, he’s a 200 range player now. He showed all his super hardcore training entering this season but the results never came, he’s just a journeyman mediocre player now. Ordinary results. The game passed him by, his finesse smooth easy game which emphasizes elegance over physicality, doesn’t work anymore. I always said in his peak years he plays like he’s wearing a tuxedo and top hat, afraid to get down and dirty and grind it out. He was not a “vicious competitor” as Pancho Gonzales and Jimmy Connors described what all the great champions are. Still he had a fine a career but he should have been much more. As he said a few years ago, Federer and the top elites destroyed his confidence to be a top player.



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