Bernard Tomic has been suspended from Australia's opening Davis Cup tie in Taiwan next season as the estrangement between the country's most talented young player and the tennis establishment spills over into what, for Tomic, threatens not to be such a happy new year.
It is believed Tennis Australia will also cut Tomic's support funding for the start of next year, amid growing exasperation over the 20-year-old's effort, attitude and commitment, if not his wayward off-court behaviour.
It continues the statement made by Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter by not selecting Australia's new No 1, Marinko Matosevic, for the previous tie for disciplinary reasons.
''Pat has made the decision early that for the first tie next year Bernard will not be selected,'' TA's director of tennis, Craig Tiley, confirmed. ''As a team, we just felt that part of the commitment that we make to athletes and athletes make to the sport is they always put 100 per cent commitment and effort in competing for their country ...
''I think you can draw a few parallels with Marinko. It's very much along those lines. It's not one specific incident, just an aggregation of his approach to the game ... We just felt that this decision should provide additional motivation every time he walks on the court to be a total professional in his approach to not only his preparation but competing in the match and post-match.
''And it would be no different if he was the No 1 player in Australia, or the No 100 player, or a junior.''
Tomic was Australia's top-ranked man until late October and a much-heralded Wimbledon quarter-finalist last year. From being world No.27 in June, he has slipped to 52. At the US Open, Tomic was accused of tanking in a third set against Andy Roddick in an effort Rafter branded ''disgraceful''.
Tiley refused to comment on the financial ramifications of the suspension, but the precedent was set by Matosevic, whose substandard effort in the dead rubber against South Korea in April cost him a place in the doomed world group play-off against Germany in September, and an estimated $100,000 in travel grants and coaching support.
In Matosevic's absence, Tomic's attitude was questioned during a difficult week for the team that failed to win either of the final-day matches that would have delivered an overdue return to the world group. But Tomic told Fairfax Media in October that, although he and Rafter had words in Hamburg, there was no rift. ''Me and Pat have been [getting along] really well ... we haven't had any issues, and he said what he needed to say,'' Tomic said.
News of the suspension was applauded by several past players. ''He's 20, he's a kid compared to a lot of the guys that are out there and, like us all, you've got to learn some lessons the hard way, and hopefully he does because he's a good guy and he's the sort of bloke you want to see do well,'' Jason Stoltenberg, formerly a top-20 singles player and coach of Lleyton Hewitt.
''Hopefully he trusts that there are some people in his corner that have experience and knowledge who want the best for him, like Pat ... Sometimes some tough love ... is not a bad thing. I definitely support Pat ... I think he's been doing a pretty good job.''
World No 9 Sam Stosur also labelled Tomic's recent behaviour as ''disappointing''. ''He's young but he seems to be making a lot of poor decisions at the moment,'' Stosur told Melbourne radio. ''I hope for his sake he grows up pretty quick.''
- Sydney Morning Herald