PAT RAFTER and Bernard Tomic have taken the first step towards a rapprochement, through a casual but amicable postscript to the end of Tomic's Australian Open campaign. There was no formal detente, and nor was one expected, but Tomic's friend Goran Ivanisevic believes a reconciliation is in the best interests of both player and country.
''I think there should be a love story, because Tennis Australia needs Tomic, Tomic needs Tennis Australia. Everybody needs everybody there,'' said Ivanisevic, who sat in Tomic's player box during his run to the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-finals, and admits he is struggling to reconcile Australia's grand history with its presence in the Davis Cup's zone group competition.
''They have a still good team, Lleyton [Hewitt] - you can use Lleyton good, you have Bernard, you have young guys, so it's one, two weeks here, everybody should get together - Patrick, who is a great captain - and there should be a love story there … You don't let Bernard Tomic [go], you need Bernard Tomic, and he really needs to play, [it] should be [a] good end of story.''
Marinko Matosevic will return from suspension as the highest-ranked singles player for next month's Asia/Oceania zone group fixture in Taiwan, replacing Tomic, who will serve his own one-fixture ban. Hewitt, Matthew Ebden and Chris Guccione will complete the squad; Ebden edging out James Duckworth.
Tomic has declared himself unavailable for the April meeting with, presumably, either Uzbekistan or China, and although selection issues for Australia's second tie are a low priority until the first is won, there is still some hope within the Davis Cup fraternity that the 20-year-old will play. Tomic, who has played the past five ties, holds an 8-2 singles record since his 2010 debut.
In a rankings sense, Ivanisevic backs Tomic's ambition to reach the top 10 by season's end. ''I said that four years ago he's going to be top 10, it just depends on him [whether it's] five, six, one, two, three, I can't predict that, but definitely top 10 is huge for him,'' the 2001 Wimbledon champion said. ''This year is huge for him, he's started well and hopefully he can continue.
''Last year he also started well, but he didn't play well the rest of the year. But this year I think he's one year older, he's better in the head, he's more mature, he knows what he wants and he's playing better. He played much better against [Roger] Federer this year than last year, which is great, so definitely I think he and [Milos] Raonic can be the new top 10 guys. [Tomic] should be in the top 10, because he is capable, he is a very talented player.''