In his first match since being fined a Wimbledon-record $US15,000 for saying he was “a little bored” during his first-round defeat at the All England Club, Tomic succumbed 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 to 19th seed Gilles Simon.
Tomic is provisionally projected to slump to 142nd in the rankings, leaving the one-time grand slam quarter-finalist and world No.17 very much at a career crossroad.
Unless he improves his ranking to around 105 by the end of the season, the 24-year-old will miss direct entry to his home major.
An insider said they suspected Tennis Australia would be reluctant to extend the generosity of a wildcard to Tomic after he opted out of last year’s Rio Olympics and no longer represents Australia in the Davis Cup.
Tomic said he wouldn’t ask for a wildcard and remained confident of boosting his ranking sufficiently with some strong results during the Asian swing.
But after also revealing in a recent TV interview he’d spent much of his career not giving 100 per cent in matches, Tomic is unlikely to gain many wildcards to big events and will need to play low-level Challenger events to boost his ranking.
“It’s no sort of threat for me. I’ve been in this position before and I managed to turn it around quickly,” he said, recalling how he battled back after falling to 124th in the world following double hip surgery in 2014.
“It’s about being healthy the next six months to a year.”
After also complaining of being burnt out during his extraordinary post-match press conference at Wimbledon, Tomic said his motivation – if not full health and fitness – had returned following a six-week break from tennis.
Tomic, though, maintained he still felt “trapped” in tennis and would likely need to play on into his 30s – unless “I can win a major or two, maybe I can retire early”.
“I mean, it’s tough. Everyone has their own work, their own job and it’s not like I can go and start real estate or something, restaurants. I’ve got no idea about that,” he said.
“Yes, I can afford to do those things, but I’ve got no idea. My job’s only to play tennis and it’s all I know.
“I’m not going to finish a doctor’s degree. I’m not the smartest person in the world.”
Tennis great John Newcombe feared at Wimbledon that the troubled star was close to suffering breakdown but Tomic said he was back in a good head space.
But he accepted he needed to work hard physically to return to the elite of the top 20.
“It’s not easy. It’s a tough level, but it’s my fault this year,” Tomic said.
“I haven’t been giving a lot of focus and commitment to tennis in the start of the year.
“That’s took a toll in losing a lot of points. It’s my fault, but I need to turn it around.”
Meanwhile, Adelaide’s Thanasi Kokkinakis has suffered another shattering five-set loss at the US Open.
In his first match at Flushing Meadows since retiring with severe cramps while locked at two sets all against French star Richard Gasquet in 2015, Kokkinakis was again injured before blowing a two-set lead against Janko Tipsarevic.
The 21-year-old was treated for an elbow injury and complained of pains all the way down his left side in his gut-wrenching 5-7 (5-7) 3-6 6-1 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 loss to Serbia’s two-time quarter-finalist.
And Ashleigh Barty has made it three from three for Australian women with a crushing first-round win.
In her first match at Flushing Meadows since quitting the sport after the 2014 Open, Barty upended 21st seed Ana Konjuh 4-6 6-0 6-1 to join Arina Rodionova and Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round.
The 21-year-old’s reward is a meeting with world No.88 Aliaksandra Sasnovich on Thursday.
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