Lleyton Hewitt hit back at “clown” Bernard Tomic in an extraordinary press conference, claiming the 26-year-old has threatened and tried to blackmail him.
Tomic made headlines on the opening day of the tournament with criticism of Davis Cup captain Hewitt, saying no one wanted him in the role and accusing him of favouring certain players over others.
The 26-year-old named Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis as other players who felt the same. Neither backed him publicly, although Kyrgios has made sniping comments about Hewitt on social media.
After a first-round doubles defeat at Melbourne Park, Hewitt pulled no punches in his response, saying: “That is what we’ve come to expect from Bernie – whatever grand slam it is, after a first-round loss he will come out with something.
“We’re trying to set cultural standards for the Davis Cup and representing Australia. He hasn’t been close to those in the last couple of years. Since then I haven’t had anything to do with Bernie at all.
“For me the biggest frustration is I feel like I went out of my way to help Bernie, especially when I first came into the role. He still kept making the wrong mistakes.
“For me it was probably the abuse I copped from him. In the end I drew a line in the sand and haven’t spoke to him since. He won’t play Davis Cup while I have anything to do with it.
“The threats I’ve received for me and my family, that I’ve had for a year and half now, I don’t think anyone would reach out to a person who speaks like that.”
Hewitt said the threats were physical and that Tomic had also attempted to blackmail him over wild cards.
He added: “Probably the first two years that I was in this role, Bernie and Nick were my two priorities so for Bernie to come out and have a go but more to get all his facts wrong, that’s probably the most disappointing thing.”
Hewitt flatly denied Tomic’s claim that he benefited financially from the players given wild cards for the Australian Open.
Hewitt added: “I don’t know why Bernie’s Bernie. I have no idea. It’s probably his upbringing. The most disappointing thing is on day one we had all these great wins by a lot of our guys and all these Bernie comments overshadow it. It’s one clown making a silly comment and that’s the main news.”
Hewitt took a different stance with Kyrgios, claiming the Davis Cup door is open, but is unhappy with the 23-year-old’s approach to the sport and his habit of writing incendiary social media posts.
“That is one of the standards which we can’t put up with, for the culture of Australian tennis moving forward,” said the 37-year-old. “I don’t think it is a good look. I’ve spoken to Nick and he understands that. Whether he learns or not is another thing.
“I’m happy to help anyone who’s willing to meet me halfway. I think you have to enjoy going out there and playing.”