Australian tennis to help Tomic

Australian tennis authorities have rushed to ensure Bernard Tomic receives support ahead of the French Open after his father and coach was suspended from ATP events pending an investigation into allegations of assault.

John Tomic was charged with assault after allegedly head-butting Bernard’s hitting partner, Thomas Drouet, on Saturday outside a Madrid hotel. The case will be heard by a Spanish court on May 18 and the ATP on Tuesday suspended John from all ATP events in the interim.

”From our perspective now, it’s about knowing that we have to do what we can for Bernard for the upcoming events,” Tennis Australia head of professional tennis Todd Woodbridge told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Woodbridge said Australia Davis Cup coach Josh Eagle has been in contact with the 20-year-old Tomic in Madrid, where he lost in the first round, and will be with him at the Rome Masters next week. Woodbridge and Australia Cup captain Pat Rafter, a two-time U.S. Open champion and two-time Wimbledon finalist, will be in Paris to support Tomic later in the month.

”We’re comfortable right now that Bernard has a lot of good support, which he’ll need,” he said.

Woodbridge said with Tomic entering one of the most crucial periods of the professional tennis calendar – with the French Open starting May 26, followed by Wimbledon from June 24 – his focus had to be on his game, not his father’s off-court situation.

”This is nothing to do with Bernard. This is John (Tomic’s) issue that has to be dealt with,” he said. ”But obviously we’ve to get him focused on playing tennis over the next couple of months and put this aside.

”We want him to, I suppose, find some sanctuary on the court.”

Drouet said in an interview published in Tuesday’s issue of French sports daily L’Equipe that the incident in Madrid stemmed from an earlier altercation at Nice airport. The Monaco resident described the alleged incident at the Madrid hotel, saying John Tomic led him to an isolated place to talk before spitting in his face.

”I think he was waiting for me to hit first,” he said. ”I didn’t move. And then, he gave me a big head-butt. I collapsed. I called one time for help, I was a bit convulsed and I lost consciousness.”

John Tomic has claimed he was acting in self-defense.

Bernard Tomic, who lost in straight sets to Radek Stepanek on Sunday, reportedly said he had been with his physical trainer at the time of the incident and had seen or heard nothing.

Drouet also claimed John Tomic has assaulted Bernard in the past.

Woodbridge said he would not comment on John Tomic’s behavior ahead of the Madrid court case, but said he was not aware of any violence in the coaching partnership.

”In the time that Tennis Australia has been involved with him, if we’d seen anything like that we would have taken action,” Woodbridge said. ”We’ve seen nothing that we thought needed to be acted upon until this point.”

Woodbridge said TA officials have been in contact with Bernard Tomic via text message and through Eagle, and are confident he is coping with the situation.

”So far he’s holding up pretty well,” he said.

Tomic has been seen as Australia’s most promising player, but his short career has been filled with controversy.

In November, he was fined and put on a 12-month good-behavior bond after twice being stopped by police for driving offenses near his Gold Coast home.

In late October, police were called to a high-rise apartment building in the Australian resort 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.

”In his career so far he’s never had trouble with attention,” Woodbridge said. ”This is a different type of attention, but he’s always been able to cope with that type of stress.”

Associated Press writers Daniella Matar in Milan and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.