Tomic versus Federer showdown at the Australian Open
Tomic has been told to pick up his game by Rafter, or risk losing his Davis Cup spot. (AFP: Cameron Spencer, file photo)
Here we go again. For the second year in a row, Bernard Tomic will face Roger Federer at the Australian Open.
Many people have been wondering what is behind Tomic’s 10-match winning streak to start the season. We all know he endured a very difficult season last year, with an overloaded schedule to blame for his sliding down the rankings, as well as accusations of tanking at both the US Open and the Davis Cup, to local favourites Andy Roddick and Florian Mayer respectively.
We saw a first glimpse of Tomic for 2013 at the Hopman Cup. He was very impressive, winning all three of his rubbers, including a famous victory over World no. 1 Novak Djokovic in front of a record crowd for a tennis match in Perth.
It was the first time he had ever beaten a top four player, let alone a reigning world no. 1. He did what Lleyton Hewitt couldn’t do during the prime of his own career (though he did beat Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match before Wimbledon in 2009).
Suddenly, Tomic had gained back the respect of the tennis public.
Then we saw how impressive he was at the Sydney International, winning his maiden ATP World Tour title on his first attempt. He did not have to beat any top players to win the title, but he was able to beat established players like Mayer, Andreas Seppi and Kevin Anderson to win the title.
If he wants to emulate this success again, he must be able to prove that he can not only beat top players, but also go deep at bigger tournaments (not just the Grand Slams but also Masters series tournaments).
Which takes me back to Wimbledon in 2011. As a qualifier, he defeated former world no. 3 Nikolay Davydenko in the first round and then-world no. 5 Robin Soderling in the third round on his way to making the quarter-finals, where he was defeated by the eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
Unfortunately, he has not reached the same heights since. But on the basis of what we have seen so far this year, it’s likely he will once again go deep at Wimbledon, where Australians have historically been successful. Until last year, at least one Australian man has made the round of 16 at Wimbledon since 1995.
After his win over Daniel Brands today, Tomic was asked about the prospect of facing Roger Federer in the third round, to which he admitted, “he kicked my arse twice,” (in reference to losses at the Australian Open and Cincinnati) last year.
However Tomic has taken a set off Federer before, way back in the Davis Cup world group play-off in 2011. If Tomic is to beat Federer, he must carefully study his game plan and exploit weaknesses in it.
Mario Ancic was able to beat Federer at Wimbledon in 2002 (well before Federer’s great era began) by exploiting weaknesses in his game and watching footage of his first round defeat to Hicham Arazi at Roland Garros from four weeks earlier.
Last year, Federer was too good for Tomic in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Tomic’s game fell apart, having played two five-setters in his first three rounds, as opposed to Federer who only played two matches after being given a second round walkover from Andreas Beck who withdrew due to an injury.
Federer went on to make the semi-finals and it seemed Tomic did not learn his lesson from that loss, as evidenced by his results for the remainder of the year.
Can Tomic do it this time around? Find out on Saturday night, we’ll be live blogging the match right here on The Roar.