SYDNEY Bernard Tomic's season got just a little bit worse on Thursday when Marinko Matosevic's victory at the Basel International ensured he would take over from his better-known compatriot as Australian number one.
Tomic, who turned 20 last Sunday, lost 6-0 6-2 to Mikhail Youzhny in the first round in Basel on Tuesday and could now also drop out of the top 50 when the new rankings are announced on Monday.
Australia's great young hope since he signed a deal with renowned sports agency IMG at the age of 13, Tomic had a breakthrough year in 2011 when he reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and was expected to build on that this year.
It started well enough when he reached the semi-finals at the Brisbane International and the last 16 at the Australian Open, where he put in an impressive performance against Roger Federer. In June, he reached a high of 27th in the rankings.
His defeat in Basel, however, was the ninth time he had lost in his first match at a tournament since the French Open and came after he pulled out of last week's Stockholm Open citing fatigue.
To add to his discomfort, Tomic has had to live with the nickname "Tomic the Tank Engine" since fading late in his second round match against Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open in August.
After a 6-4 6-0 first round defeat to Florian Mayer at the Shanghai Masters earlier this month, Tomic admitted he had only given "85 percent" and was struggling with fatigue and pressure.
"It's been a long year," he said. "I played a lot of tournaments. Haven't had time to rest.
"I think I only rested one week after Roland Garros. I think it was the wrong sort of move that I made. I think it's costing me now the last few months. My performance has not been as good.
"This is my first big year," he added. "It takes a lot out of you. I feel the pressure now is starting to kick in. I'm starting to feel that at tournaments where I defend. It's a bloody tough thing to respond to."
Darren Cahill, who coached former world number ones Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, suggested Tomic should now bring his season to an early end.
"Someone needs to put Bernie Tomic on the flying kangaroo," he Tweeted on Wednesday. "Year was done weeks ago. Charge up the batteries, get faster & stronger for 2013."
Cahill also joined the groundswell of opinion calling for Tomic to employ a more experienced coach in place of his father, John.
Undoubtedly talented, the rangy and unorthodox Tomic has rarely been a stranger to controversy, with his career punctuated by rows with officialdom.
One of the earliest clashes came when his father ordered the then 16-year-old to walk off court at a development event in protest at inaction against what he alleged was repeated foot-faulting by his opponent, Matosevic.
World number two Novak Djokovic said Tomic would eventually learn not to be as honest with the media as he was with the "85 percent" comment in Shanghai, and still had a big future.
"I still do think he has a talent, a potential," the Australian Open champion said in Shanghai.
"There's a lot of things going on there through his head. He's probably aware of the fact that he can face the big players ... So physically and mentally, he's there.
"But if he can do it on a regular basis, that's something that tennis is actually asking from him."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)