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Beyond the Baseline

Details emerge about Bernard Tomic's volatile relationship with his father

Bernard Tomic played against Lukasz Kubot in their Davis Cup play-off. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP) Bernard Tomic faced off against Lukasz Kubot in their Davis Cup World Group play-off. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Physical violence, intimidation and emotional blackmail -- that's the picture Thomas Drouet paints of his six-month tenure as Bernard Tomic's hitting partner, which ended when Tomic's father John assaulted him in front of a Madrid hotel in May.

In a pair of columns for Australia's News Limited Network (Part I and Part 2), Drouet recounts not just the Madrid assault that left him unconscious and in the hospital, but details his unpleasant experience working under a controlling and manipulative John Tomic while trying to help a well-meaning but ultimately unhelpful Bernard.

Drouet was hired by Marion Bartoli before Wimbledon, which she went on to win, and based on his posts it sounds like the two experiences couldn't have been more different.

Here are the most notable takeaways from Drouet's account:

• The Madrid Incident: By now the details of John Tomic's assault on Drouet are well known and have been adjudicated. A Spanish court found him guilty of assault, but gave him a suspended sentence because it was his first offense. What wasn't known was how Bernard Tomic handled the situation. Drouet says Bernard was sympathetic at first but eventually tried to get him to dismiss the charges.

Bernard comes to see me at the hospital with Josko [Sillic, Tomic's physio], and tells me that his father has gone too far, and that he will put him on the plane the next day, and that he no longer wants the presence of his father by his side. He said he wants to be alone in the team with just Josko and me. I go to police later and file a complaint until 2 a.m. The next day at breakfast there is a change of attitude and Bernard tells me that if I sue his father, he will be on his side and they can afford to pay for lawyers whereas I can't. He's probably right there.

The next day and we are all at court. I am alone, lost, no lawyer. My nose is taped up and I have a brace on my neck. Outside the courtroom John's lawyer tries to negotiate. There is talk of 3000 euros compensation. I refuse and John later backs off and argues self-defence.

I get an SMS message from Bernard who says he is sorry and he is sad for what has happened. I am surprised by the message, then another, then a third from Bernard, saying he wants to meet with me and my girlfriend in Monaco. As I get off the plane in Nice to make the drive to Monaco, Josko calls me and tells me "whatever you do don't go to this meeting, it's a set up, John is manipulating Bernard and (John) wants you to blow a fuse. I don't go to the meeting, no more news from Bernard.

• John Tomic punches Bernard: The most shocking account is of an incident in which Drouet says he saw John punch Bernard during a practice session, and he provides a screencap of a text message exchange with Bernard that seems to confirm the incident, which occurred in Monte Carlo the week before the Madrid Open.

"John is furious and then - pow! One punch. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, right there just in front of me. Bernard doesn't say anything but has tears in his eyes. John walks away and rests two rackets on an angle against the wall then snaps his foot down on them breaking them. Crack, crack - breaks both rackets and tells Bernard that he doesn't play tournaments now for three weeks and tells me to cancel all the flight tickets. Bernard sees this and then breaks his racket. My God, these people, it's crazy."

• Bernard Tomic and his father share a seemingly unbreakable bond: According to Drouet, Bernard is fully aware of his father's poor treatment of his team and controlling conduct he won't do anything about it out of loyalty to his father. After initially telling Drouet his father went too far in assaulting him in Madrid, Bernard tells Drouet at Wimbledon that he isn't pleased about the ATP's decision to ban his father from tournaments.

"Bernard tells me he is unhappy with the ATP's decision and that the ATP should protect him. I think I am completely imagining this and ask him if he realises what his father has done. He has already forgotten that a month and a half ago I was laying on the ground in Madrid unconscious and covered in blood because of his father. He apologises once more for what his father has done, but tells me it's his father and he loves him."

• Bernard Tomic likes to party: Drouet says after his successful Australian run which saw him win his first ATP title in Sydney and make the third round of the Australian Open where he lost to Roger Federer, Tomic went on a partying spree and returned to training completely out of shape and unmotivated.

Salva and I see him, and "Oh my god, who is this?"

Bernard doesn't want to do anything now. Salva fights to get him to do sprints. I watch as they go to this long track near the courts. Bernard runs like he is at a marathon, just a slow jog. Mr. 50 per cent. He is like a zombie.

It is now five days before the Marseille and Rotterdam tournaments. He has worked only for five days training, not enough.

Tomic proceeded to lose to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round of Rotterdam in his first tournament after the Australian Open and went on a four month stretch in which he failed to win back-to-back matches at a tournament.

Drouet makes light of Tomic's reputation of tanking matches (or practice sessions, as Drouet says he did against Kei Nishikori in Miami this year) and his habit of sneaking out after hours to meet up with friends,. This leads to Drouet telling an oddly endearing story of Bernard realizing he needs to treat his career more professionally, but can't seem to get out of his own way. After having a heart-to-heart with Tomic about recommitting to his career and promising to "practice every day", Drouet says he felt they had made progress and that Tomic was "evolving".

After an hour and a half of really honest talk he suddenly says "Okay Thomas now we go and party together and drink a lot to cement and celebrate these good words and we can start again on a healthy basis." I tell him "no, now we go to the arms of Morpheus, celebrate in Morpheus' arms", meaning we go to sleep.

Bernard just looks at me blankly and asks "who is Morpheus?". He thinks it is a girl at the tournament.

• Who's the boss?: It's clear from his account of his time with the Tomics that Drouet was consistently stuck in the middle of the conflicts between Bernard and John:

John asks me to play a set with Bernard. He tells me to play as hard as I can and to bug him as much as I can. He tells me that if I win more than three games in the set, he (Bernard) will run back home. Caught up between my fear of John and my compassion for Bernard, I play the best I can for fear of retaliation and win the set. Bernard is furious with me, breaks a racquet and the father orders him to run home ... great atmosphere.
• The Tomics break a lot of rackets: The only time I can recall Bernard breaking a racket was after his first round loss to David Goffin at Wimbledon in 2012. He took such a large divot out of the grass that the All England Club actually hauled him in to give him a talking to about his unsportsmanlike conduct. But according to Drouet, both Bernard and father John have no problem breaking rackets during practices. While Bernard seems to do it out of frustration or anger, Drouet describes an incident in which John deliberately broke all of Bernard's rackets in order to stop him from being able to practice.
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