Sunday, 20 January 2013

Federer tames talented Tomic

The match that we had been told that everyone had waited for since the tournament began was now on our doorstep.
Roger Federer without fuss travelled into the third round not dropping a set and never in the slightest danger of doing so.  Bernard Tomic, Australia's final singles hope, waltzed through the first round perfectly but his dancing faltered slightly against a German qualifier in round 2; nevertheless he hot shuffled on after the first set missteps.
Roger has not failed to reach the quarter finals of a Grand Slam event since man invented the wheel so Tomic's challenge presented as slightly larger than normal.  He played Federer in the fourth round at the 2012 Open and distinguished himself well in defeat but distinguishing hasn't yet made it into the ranking points table and a win was the only acceptable result for the 20 year old in 2013.

The crowd just demanded a good tennis match because deep down either result would be fine by the masses.  The demands indeed were met and Federer delivered from the outset.  Bernard began a little nervously and like Davydenko before him the conservatism cost him, because trying to out rally Roger is asking for trouble.  Sure the first few strokes are just like a warm up but then the nasty slice and wicked angle cause the other player to be suddenly out of position with racquet less than best prepared.

The break was achieved in the first game and Federer proceeded to serve exceptionally and maintain that advantage.  Both players in fact performed as the occasion warranted, and but for that opening slip, Tomic matched Federer in many departments.  Very high first serve percentages were a feature, the marked difference appearing in the value of the first serve once it hit the court.  Tomic rarely had a good enough read on the Swiss first delivery and many free points were Federer's as a consequence.  Tomic, however had to battle not only the serve of Federer which was on, but a returning exhibition from the world number two, the likes of which I cannot recall from him for some time.

To his credit battle he did, and manfully, trading games until the ninth without facing another break point.  When serving to stay in the set Tomic had to go to the well a few times to save break points and did, charging Federer with the task of sealing the set for himself.
He accomplished that job comfortably and led 6-4.

The best tennis of the match from both came with the second set.  Everything that Federer did in the first, he repeated except in a couple of areas which improved, so for Tomic to even contemplate matching this standard was for many fantastical.  However the Australian did put more thought into his first serve and rather than just blast them into play he made them different enough to worry the Federer return just a fraction, saving him more than once in break point situations.

Shot placement also improved for Tomic so the winners were more frequent and overall the match for the spectator was high quality.  Although Federer had chances to break Tomic in several games, including one which would have given him 6-5, it seemed fitting that a tie break determine the set's outcome.

When Tomic had led 4-1 then 5-3 with another serve to come, the hush in the crowd was pronounced.  Then one of the longest rallies became also the most important of the match to date.  By its end, with the Tomic error, Federer had managed to wriggle out of a perilous predicament.  One could sense the Tomic deflation as the next three points played out all to Federer's tune.

The set that Federer could have won earlier then should have lost late, he eventually won in a thriller with some of the best tennis this tournament has scene from a pair of combatants.

Although the standard dropped in the third set, it did so from such a high level that the output still was more than acceptable.  Tomic had the right to be shattered by his circumstance - seconds from being level at a set all with the second seed, he instead found himself down by 2 sets.

His response was to have a go at the Federer serve and he had just the second break point of the night in the first game.  Because most things were rolling the Swiss way, it came as no surprise that the break was avoided, and to rub salt in where it wasn't appreciated, Tomic's serve was broken the very next game.

At 0-3 Tomic was just about to receive his exit pass from Rod Laver Arena but Federer granted him one last favour and that was a few more games on court to practice for the next event.  Tomic sharpened up with some useful forehands and handy returns of serve before Federer decided it was time to see the wife and kids and broke the Tomic serve in the sixth game.

Tomic did the right thing and allowed Federer the extra family time by not threatening the champion's serve as he proceeded to claim the match and a place in the fourth round 6-4 7-6 6-1.

For two and a bit sets this match was compelling entertainment and top drawer tennis played in good spirit - Tomic has improved in some key areas and with further work could advance significantly but for now the Federers of this game are in another galaxy. 

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