By Matt Walsh
CANBERRA, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Controversial Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic has been warned he might not be allowed to represent Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the wake of yet another on-court indiscretion over the weekend.
After a string of mishaps and controversies dating back to his teenage years, including criticizing teammates, threatening reporters, bragging about cars and prizemoney, and being arrested, Tomic's horror past two weeks could be the straw that broke the camel's back.
His latest on-court showing - in which he retired after just eight minutes of play - was an embarrassment not only to himself, but the country he represents and as a result, the 23-year-old has been sent a stern warning: shape up or risk missing out on the Olympics.
Two games to one up in the first set against Frenchman Benoit Paire in Rome, Tomic retired from his first-round match after eight minutes, citing the 26-degree Italian "heat" and doctor's advice as reasons for withdrawing from the tournament.
Ordinarily the retirement might be regarded as an aberration, except that Tomic has a long list of prior misdemeanors - especially in recent weeks - and Australia's Olympic chiefs do not like what they are seeing.
Match point down against Italian Fabio Fognini in the first round of the Madrid Open last week, Tomic seemed to give up on the match; he chose to hold his racquet by the head and feebly attempted to hit the ball with the handle, in a move which prompted a fierce backlash in Australia.
When questioned by an Australian reporter about his match-point technique, Tomic retorted: "I don't care about that match point - would you care if you were 23 and worth over 10 million (dollars)?"
Hardly endearing, news of Tomic's latest performances quickly made its way to Australian Olympic headquarters. Immediately, Australia's Chef de Mission for the Rio Olympics, Kitty Chiller, revealed she was in talks with Tennis Australia about stripping Tomic of the right to represent Australia at the Games.
On Saturday she said that every Australian athlete was "under the microscope," but tennis bad boys Tomic and Nick Kyrgios were two under the very real threat of being barred from Rio.
"There's a few athletes that are on watch and those two names (Tomic and Kyrgios) are among them," Chiller said on Saturday.
This development might ordinarily be thought of as shocking but, to many, it's a huge relief. Chiller and many other Australians have firmly had enough of Tomic's antics and her threat sends a firm message: if he cannot represent Australia adequately on the tennis tour, then he doesn't have a right to represent our nation at the greatest stage of all.
Australians understand that sports stars invariably have healthy egos. But, on top of that, what they like to see in their idols is a degree of understatement and humility, as exemplified by tennis great Rod Laver, champion golfer Adam Scott and Olympic gold medalist Cathy Freeman.
What they can't stomach is arrogance, aloofness and a disrespect to the Australian crest - of the sort displayed routinely by Tomic.
Earlier in his career, some Australians could sympathize with the public pressure and perhaps malign influence of his overbearing father John.
Many have been happy to put his continual transgressions down to immaturity in the hope he might one day win over the Australian sporting public and become a champion both on and off the court. But time is running out on that score.
And at 23, Tomic is no longer considered young, but his on-court antics and the way he conducts himself in press conferences is as bad as ever. When Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1, feels the need to comment on the poor behavior of the Australian - as he did last week - it's time to reassess.
In the last year alone, Tomic has slagged off Davis Cup teammate Nick Kyrgios, has been arrested in Miami after ignoring a number of noise complaints for partying too hard, and withdrawn from tennis commitments to prepare for other tournaments. This is not the role model young Australians need to watch come August in Rio.
Behind Tomic are a number of young Australians hungry for the admiration and respect of the public. John Millman, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sam Groth and Matthew Ebden would jump at the chance to represent their country on the world stage.
If Bernard Tomic ever needed a wake-up call to his appalling behavior, the threat of missing the Olympic Games is the biggest he can get. Unsurprisingly, if talkback forums are any guide, many Australians feel that kind of reality check is long overdue.