MELBOURNE (Reuters) - After routing old sparring partner Nikolay Davydenko at the Australian Open on Thursday, Roger Federer shifted his focus to humbling one of the young guns in his third round clash against local favorite Bernard Tomic.
Local media hyped up the potential match-up with the release of the draw, and the 43rd-ranked Tomic, the bad boy of tennis Down Under and last Australian in the draw, fuelled the frenzy by declaring he could beat the 17-times grand slam champion.
Federer, who cruised past Davydenko 6-3 6-4 6-4 on a balmy night at Rod Laver Arena, beat Tomic in front of 15,000 of his compatriots on centre court in the fourth round last year.
The 31-year-old Federer was a paragon of Swiss neutrality as he looked ahead to the match, but was goaded into reminding the plucky 20-year-old of the gulf between the players.
“Look, I have so much more experience than him,” Federer said, when asked to clarify comments about aiming to dominate Tomic physically.
”Last year I reached my thousandth match on tour. That’s what I meant. I know how hard a five‑setter can be. I know how intense a night session can be and all these things.
”Whatever that means, length of rally, length of match, intensity, I’ve been there. That could potentially help me, but it could also not help me.
“We’ll see how it goes. But he’s done a really nice job today, for instance, in the heat.”
Tomic, who has been booted out of Australia’s Davis Cup team for a perceived lack of commitment, survived a huge scare against German Daniel Brands and needed eight match points to secure a four-set victory in scorching 40 degree Celsius heat.
Despite the wobbly match, the much-vaunted Australian said he felt it was the “perfect” time to play Federer.
“I think, you know, I’ve got a good attitude to win,” said Tomic, who won his first ATP title in Sydney in the lead-up after upsetting a jet-lagged Novak Djokovic at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
”I’ve beaten a lot of good players over the last past two weeks, especially Novak. I think I can do it.
“I‘m ready. I mean, I‘m not going to say, you know, I don’t have the belief. I do have the belief now. It’s possible. I showed that in Perth, that you can beat these players.”
Tomic will need more than bluster to beat Federer, who required less than two hours to despatch former world number three Davydenko in their 20th tour clash.
Resplendent in a pair of pink and black two-toned sneakers, Federer captured a break early in each set, while his 40th-ranked opponent never had a look at his serve.
Tomic’s unorthodox playing style and finesse offers a far different opposition to most baseline pounders on the tour, and it succeeded in poaching a set off Federer in their first meeting, at a Davis Cup match in 2011.
The callow confidence reminded Federer of his teenage years when he battled the likes of American Andre Agassi in the late 1990s.
“(Tomic) took a set off me there (at the Davis Cup). He wasn’t too impressed (with me),” said Federer, bidding for a fifth title at Melbourne Park.
”There’s certain characters and certain players that have an easier time to play against good players.
“I was one of those as well.”
Editing by Martyn Herman