Australia, a country of good guys, fair play and ideal sons in laws? With Rosewall, Laver or Rafter, perhaps. But since the 1980s, and the last weeks have reminded to all those that have forgotten, that it is also the country whose representatives have been involved in the most polemics. No small feat in a sport like tennis. Altercations, sexism or racism: from Pat Cash to Nick Kyrgios, review of the (reduced) troop of brats from the country-continent.
Pat Cash was "the" big mouth of an era. In the 1980s, everybody at some point or another has been hauled over the coals by the sniper from Melbourne. The journalists? "It smells so much like shit in here that I’d rather not talk to you" (1989, Press Room of the Australian Open). The spectators? "The worst public I've seen was in Portland in Davis Cup. The largest gathering of assholes in my career." (1984 semi-finals of the competition). But his favourite targets were always his female counterparts, of whom he never missed an opportunity to reduce the merits. We owe him in particular an irrevocable: "Women's tennis is two shit sets of complete boredom which fortunately rarely last more than half an hour." What eventually made a wise old man of Australian tennis, John Newcombe, blow a fuse and give him a good dressing down in 1984: "to compare Mats Wilander and Pat Cash, is like comparing the Grand Canyon with a crack in a wall."
Before winning his stripes of respected old sage, taking under his wing the impetuous Bernard Tomic or Nick Kyrgios, Lleyton Hewitt was this brat whose provocative attitudes and sensational "Come ooooon”, fist raised towards the opponent, exasperated the tennis world. His masterpiece on the subject dates back to 2001 and a US Open second round. One day against James Blake he felt aggrieved by the error of a linesman, a black young man, and told the umpire: "Look at them and tell me if you don't think that they look alike." Implying two interpretations: Hewitt will claim the first (favouritism), reject the second (racism). At the heart of the media storm, booed by New Yorkers for the rest of the fortnight, Hewitt would nevertheless still win the US Open in 2001, his first Grand Slam title, even defeating local darlings, the emerging Andy Roddick and the legend Pete Sampras. The most beautiful insult he could do to local spectators.
Ah, Bernard Tomic... The boy who once said: "I have no doubt that one day I will be the best player to have ever played the game" became a man of pretty good results, no more, but also became, by far, the World No. 1 for antics of all kinds: speeding while driving his BMW, hit and run, drunk on the highway, fighting in public places, altercations with his father, disputes with his federation... Australian tabloids could easily open a special section dedicated to Bernie. His last performance to date: excluded (once again) of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas that defeated Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals, the Australian decided to go on holiday in Miami... A holiday that inevitably ended… In a prison cell. The reason: neighbours complained about the noise coming from his room so the direction of the hotel tried to throw him out. "Tried" because the man locked himself in his room and refused to come out. Hence the intervention of the police and since the Australian struggled during the questioning, he ended in jail. One more in the life of Bernard Tomic.
In the 2000s, the next generation of Australian tennis could be summarized in two names: Bernard Tomic and Brydan Klein. The latter was just 17 when he won the Junior Australian Open, in 2007. He then went on the professional tour, raking Futures titles and then a first Challenger and then a first "perf" in the Top 100... Everything was going well until June 2009: Klein insulted (racist insults) the South African Raven Klaasen during the qualifying of the Eastbourne tournament. The authorities decided to make an example of his case and the 19-year-old Australian paid his inappropriate behaviour at full price: a $ 10,000 fine and a four month suspension by the ATP, plus a six-month suspension of aids from all kinds (financial as logistics) by his federation. Coincidence for a player who had already reached his best level or not? Fact remains that Klein hasn’t progressed significantly thereafter - 176th in the World at the time of the Eastbourne incident, he culminates today, at 25, with a best career ranking of 170th in the world.
We will not dwell on the now infamous "I'm sorry to tell you that, man, but Thanasi (Kokkinakis, ed.) fucked your girlfriend" that he said to Stan Wawrinka at the Montreal Masters 1000. But at 20, it must be acknowledged that Nick Kyrgios already has his fair share of scandals: insults, matches ostensibly deserted when defeat is near and, more generally, many blatant big mouth offenses. "He talks a lot, every day, so he's a good customer for journalists" said Stan Wawrinka after eliminating him at the Queen's in a game that had already led to a verbal explanation between the two men. « When you read his interviews, it's always funny, there are many things to take. I had read before the game that he was ready, excited by the challenge. And now that he lost in straight sets, he says that he was sick..." Smile of the Swiss, very much at ease too in the art of teasing. For if the sport thrives on strong characters, it is unforgiving towards those who do not convert their verbal outbursts into performances on the courts.