Roger Federer sets up match with Tomic
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 favourite 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.
DEL POTRO IN TOP FORM
He's one of just four men left in the Australian Open field with a grand slam singles title to their name and Juan Martin del Potro is living up to that billing.
While the top three seeds Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray are capturing more attention, the 2009 US Open winner has moved through his first two rounds in even more dominant fashion.
Del Potro conceded just five games in his opening round win over French qualifier Adrian Mannarino and a further eight in eliminating German Benjamin Becker 6-2 6-4 6-2 in the second round on Thursday night.
It means the sixth seed has conceded fewer games than any of the top three seeds over the opening two rounds.
Becker, 20cm shorter than the powerful, long-limbed 198cm Argentinian, tried to mix up his pace early in the match to disrupt del Potro's rhythm.
It worked to an extent with del Potro having to work harder to gain the early ascendancy than the lopsided scoreline suggested.
But with his pounding serve meaning he faced just one break point for the match - and saved it - the contest was always headed his way and he sealed the match by serving it out to love with four straight aces.
"I served well and I made a lot of winners with my forehand. When I'm 100 per cent I have a good chance to keep winning matches," del Potro said.
After winning the 2009 US Open - the only major of the past 31 won by someone other than Djokovic, Federer, Murray or Rafael Nadal - del Potro was sidelined by a wrist injury for eight months of 2010.
He has since worked his way back inside the top 10, winning four ATP titles last year and reaching the quarter-finals of three majors, including the Australian Open, where he lost to Federer.
This year he's seeded to clash with Murray in the quarter-finals, although del Potro's next opponent will be unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
MONFILS SURVIVES DOUBLE-FAULTS
Flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils survived an attack of the jitters to beat Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan 7-6 4-6 0-6 6-1 8-6 in the second round of the Australian Open.
Monfils, unseeded as he makes his way back from a long injury absence, double-faulted on four successive match points before finally clinching victory in just under four hours.
"It was a bit crazy," Monfils said in a courtside interview. "It was like, 'I need to hit an ace because I know it's going to be a double-fault for sure. It was weird.
"I think I got a bit lucky in the end."
At one stage in the third set, Monfils looked to be struggling for breath in sweltering temperatures that had tipped 40 degrees Celsius earlier in the day.
But after gathering himself in the fourth set, he held on to win the fifth and now plays another Frenchman, 14th seed Gilles Simon, for a place in the last 16.
Monfils was ranked as high as seventh in 2011 but missed large chunks of the 2012 season with a right knee injury and has slipped to 86th in the rankings.
- Reuters, AAP