Photo: Paul ZimmerRoger Federer (SUI)
The hype surrounding Saturday’s night match on Rod Laver Arena between Roger Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam champion, and Bernard Tomic, the 20-year-old hope of Australian tennis, had consumed the press in Melbourne and while the match might not have lived up to expectation it did show that Tomic could well be on his way to making it in men’s tennis.
It was a battle of young and old – not that Federer is old by modern standards in the men’s game – but it was an intriguing contest involving a champion who had nothing to prove and a youngster who is trying to live up to the weight of expectation.
“Obviously, the result is something I was hoping for but not sure going into it,” Federer said after the match. “So I'm just really pleased that the outcome is what I was hoping for. I'm happy also with my playing. I thought I played really good today. That's obviously important looking ahead.”
On paper the straight sets victory to Federer 64 76(5) 61 didn’t tell the whole tale of the ebb and flow of the match. The Swiss took control of the match early on but it was the Australian who had his chances in the second set and even led 5-2 in the tiebreak before Federer came storming back to win five points in a row and all but end his opponent’s momentum.
Leading two-sets-to-love and in his pomp, Federer kept his foot down and raced away with the final set 61 but the defeat has left the Aussie wanting more.
Tomic said: “I thought it was a really good match. The first two sets we played really good tennis. It came down to one point, I think.
“I was pretty satisfied with my tennis. I was competing out there, trying to hang in there with him. He just came up with good stuff when he really needed it the most.
“It's just a matter of time when I get up to the big group of boys in the Top 10. I've got to believe and do the things that I was doing the last few weeks. I know I'm going to be in there with this attitude.”
Elsewhere in the men’s singles there were upsets and epics as the tournament continued to produce some fabulous story lines.
Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic were felled by Jeremy Chardy and Andreas Seppi respectively, both matches going the distance and taking their toll on the players involved as the Melbourne sun shone down.
Another player who will need some time to recover is France’s Gilles Simon, who refused to let a two-set lead slip away in a gruelling encounter with countrymen Gael Monfils. Simon had to be helped from the court such was his level of exhaustion.
And his reward? A round of 16 clash with the in-form Andy Murray, who cruised through against Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis on day six.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet ensured four Frenchmen made it through to the last 16 at the Australian Open for just the fourth time in history, while Canada’s Milos Raonic set up an intriguing clash with Federer in the next round after a comfortable victory over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
In the women’s draw top seed Victoria Azarenka survived a scare against Jamie Hampton, who was struggling with a back injury, and Sloane Stephens’ ended Britain’s Laura Robson’s hopes of progressing further.
Serena Williams looked comfortable against Ayumi Morita and Caroline Wozniacki set up a round of 16 clash with Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is on the comeback from injury.
And finally, Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm’s dream run came to an end against Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski.