MOST kids who grow up living and breathing sport dream of one day emulating their idols.

Think how many Aussie children spent years in the backyard hoping to one day bat like Ricky Ponting or Steve Smith, or take a Leo Barry-esque mark in an AFL grand final. Or hit a golf ball like Tiger Woods.

It appears the same can't be said of the current crop of Australian tennis stars. As students of the game, the likes of Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios would have watched Pat Rafter and idolised him. We know Tomic wanted to have "a heart like Lleyton Hewitt" because there was footage of him as a pre-teen saying so in a TV interview aired on Sunday night.

But for any admiration they had for Rafter - a tennis legend and one of Aussie sport's genuine good guys - it doesn't mean they were prepared to work for him. The two-time major winner was Australia's Davis Cup captain for four years and in that time oversaw the development of Gen Y talents Tomic and Kyrgios.

But even someone with his reputation couldn't mould the youngsters into the dominant force Australia has craved for so long. Rafter quit his post as Davis Cup captain a year earlier than expected in 2015 and moved into a role as performance director for Tennis Australia, a position he relinquished after two years.

Rafter and Tomic just couldn't connect.
Rafter and Tomic just couldn't connect. AAP Image - John Pryke

"I'm really honest with the guys. I came into a time in tennis - Davis Cup-wise and also as performance director - to try and change the culture and I realised I had no impact on these guys whatsoever and they couldn't relate to me and I couldn't relate to them," Rafter told KIIS FM's Hughesy & Kate on Monday.

"It's probably a lot of bad timing. I wanted to try and bring back some really strong, ethical morals we used to live by and I just found I couldn't do it.

"It wasn't enjoyable. I reckon I had one or two enjoyable ties out of my four years that I did it for and it was just hard work. I was banging my head against a wall all the time.

"I just wasn't in the mood for that kind of thing. I didn't need it in my life."

Rafter continued his crack at Australia's young brigade, saying whereas his generation would have taken criticism on board and tried to improve, that just didn't happen under his tenure.

"I thought at the time we (Rafter and Tomic) could make some change but I found out pretty quickly that I couldn't impact that," Rafter says.

"That was the era we got brought up with (where criticism would spark change). I'm not sure this generation takes that sort of criticism as positive criticism."

Australian Davis Cup team of (L-R) Marinko Matosevic, Bernard Tomic, Chris Guccione, Matt Ebden and captain Pat Rafter attend a news conference at the Queensland Tennis Centre in Brisbane, Tuesday, April, 3, 2012.
Australian Davis Cup team of (L-R) Marinko Matosevic, Bernard Tomic, Chris Guccione, Matt Ebden and captain Pat Rafter attend a news conference at the Queensland Tennis Centre in Brisbane, Tuesday, April, 3, 2012. AAP Image - John Pryke

Rafter was responding to comments Tomic made in an interview with Channel Seven's Sunday Night program where he attacked what he believes is Rafter's fake public persona.

"Pat's said a lot of bad things about me throughout my career, and he's always perceived as this nice guy," Tomic said.

"This image - people don't know him behind closed doors. He's not that much of a nice guy.

"And he's - you know, he likes to put on a show."

Those remarks come after Tomic blew up at Rafter in 2015, calling him a "good actor" when he was involved in a spat with Tennis Australia about a perceived lack of support. Rafter wasn't shy about criticising Tomic in public, labelling his capitulation against Andy Roddick at the 2012 US Open - where the young gun was accused of tanking - as "disgraceful".

Rafter said he probably should have kept his criticisms in-house and actually agrees with Tomic that he acts differently depending on who he's with.

"He's not entirely wrong, at the end of the day we do wear different hats for different occasions," Rafter says. "I do put on different faces for different occasions.

"I don't want to bash up on Bernie. He's got a point and he's got a voice and he can say what he wants to say. We have had run-ins, we see life a little bit differently."

Rafter says he hasn't spoken to Tomic in nearly a year and has no plans to contact him anytime soon.

News Corp Australia

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