Is this the worst possible way to lose a match?

Most certainly not, but it’s got to be in the conversation.

On Tuesday in the first round of the Madrid Open, with Bernard Tomic trailing Fabio Fognini 6-2, 5-4 (40-0) and the Italian serving for the match, the Australian seemed to throw in the towel. On match point, the 23-year-old attempted—though it wasn’t much of an attempt—to return Fognini’s serve with his racquet handle. The serve, predictably, whizzed past Tomic for an ace, and Fognini earned a 6-2, 6-4 win and a second-round encounter with sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori.


Tomic, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 17 in January, is down to No. 22.

He’s had his moments in 2016—highlights include reaching the semifinals in Brisbane, the final in Acapulco and the fourth round of the Australian Open—but overall it’s been a down year for the three-time titlist.

Tomic has made a habit of losing to lesser competition this season. He was upset by Teymuraz Gabashvili in Sydney, Paolo Lorenzi in Quito and Rajeev Ram in Delray Beach. Prior to falling to Fognini on Tuesday, he had dropped consecutive openers to Robin Haase in Bucharest and Diego Schwartzman in Istanbul, respectively. He’s now 14-11 on the season.

We would also be remiss if we failed to acknowledge Tomic’s off-the-court antics. Right or wrong, for better or for worse, he’s found himself at the center of controversy. First it was a war of words, of sorts, with none other than Roger Federer at the start of the year.

Then it was a public call-out of—who else?—Nick Kyrgios during Davis Cup play.

All of a sudden, Kyrgios—who has passed his elder as the top-ranked Australian in the world—looks like the more mature of the two talented Aussies.

Follow Brad Kallet on Twitter @brad_kallet.