Tennis

Tomic's father charged with assault

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

The father of Australian tennis player Bernard Tomic has been charged with assaulting his son's hitting partner after allegedly headbutting Thomas Drouet ahead of this week's Madrid Open.

A Madrid court said Monday that John Tomic, who is also his son's coach, disputed the charges and will face trial on May 14.

Drouet, of Monaco, told Australian newspaper the Herald Sun that John Tomic headbutted him on Saturday during a scuffle outside the player hotel. Drouet said he has been verbally abused for months by the elder Tomic and that the two had been arguing over whether he should continue to get paid as a training partner.

''He spat in my face, then walked away, and said he wouldn't pay me anymore,'' Drouet was quoted as saying. ''I said, `OK, John, you are a real man. That's fine. Bernard will pay me'. And he headbutted me.''

Drouet added that ''every day he treat me like a dog for six months, with disrespect and then this.''

The newspaper published pictures on its website of Drouet with his nose heavily bandaged and wearing a neck brace.

At a hearing Monday, the court said it could not hold an immediate trial because John Tomic disputed the facts laid out by the prosecution. Under Spanish law, a speedy trial can be held if both sides agree on the facts and can lead to reduced penalties.

Tennis Australia said it was working with the ATP tour in investigating the incident.

The 53rd-ranked Tomic lost in straight sets to Radek Stepanek in the first round on Sunday. The 20-year-old Tomic has been seen as Australia's most promising player, but his short career has been filled with controversy.

His year got off a good start with a win over No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic at the Hopman Cup and his first ATP tournament victory at the Sydney International.

However, it came at a time when he had a falling out with Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter, who suspended Tomic from playing in Australia's opening match of the year against Taiwan. Tomic has since returned to the Australian team and won two matches in Australia's second-round Asia Oceania victory over Uzbekistan in April.

In March, Tomic lost 6-3, 6-1 to Andy Murray at Miami and was jeered by spectators for his lackluster performance as his record fell to 2-15 against top-10 opponents.

Rafter had criticized Tomic when the Australian faced accusations at the U.S. Open in September that he ''tanked,'' or deliberately lost, a match against American Andy Roddick.

In November, Tomic was fined $1,750 and put on a 12-month good-behavior bond after facing a Gold Coast court over four driving charges resulting from twice being stopped by police in January.

In late October, police were called to a high-rise apartment building in the Australian resort city of Surfers Paradise after residents saw two men, one of them naked, wrestling and fighting in a hot tub on the balcony. One of the men was later identified as Tomic.

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