Melbourne: Brash young Australian Bernard Tomic gets the chance to back up his big talk in his much-anticipated showdown with the great Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Tomic, who won his first Tour title last week, has talked up his chances of upsetting the greatest Grand Slam winner of them all in what is shaping as an electric evening inside the Rod Laver Arena.
Swiss legend Federer has done it all before with four Australian titles among his record collection of 17 major wins, and he gave Tomic a straight sets lesson when they met in the fourth round in Melbourne a year ago.
But 43rd-ranked Tomic fancies his chances of a rare early round win over Federer, who has reached the quarter-finals at the last 34 consecutive Grand Slams going back to the 2004 French Open.
Confidence is not in short supply with Tomic, who goes into Saturday’s duel the winner of his last 10 singles matches and hopeful of his chances against 31-year-old Federer.
“Ten out of 10 now with matches. I feel so confident. This is the perfect time to play him. I’ve got a good attitude to win,” Tomic said after his second round win over German qualifier Daniel Brands.
“I’ve beaten a lot of good players over the last past two weeks, especially Novak Djokovic [at the Hopman Cup]. I think I can do it.
“I’m ready. I do have the belief now. It’s possible. I showed that in Perth, that you can beat these players. Now I’m going to try to beat him.”
Phlegmatic Federer has taken it all in his stride and far from being provoked by the presumptive Aussie’s mind games, he says he hopes the match won’t be anti-climatic.
“I think he’s [Tomic] been lured into it, to be honest. So at the end of the day, you’ve got to wait for the match. All the talk around it,” he said.
“I don’t read the press, so I don’t know it’s going to affect me. I don’t know if he’s going to wake up in the morning, first thing in the morning, and go to the coffee shop and read the paper.
“I think it’s important to be confident to a degree, it seems he has that.
“Now obviously we both have to live up to a big match, big hype, and then we can talk about it afterwards.”
Although Tomic is the rising star of Australian tennis, the centre court crowd is expected to be divided in its support.
A local study for the third year running has Federer upstaging the sports-mad country’s football, cricket and swimming stars as the athlete most admired by Australians.
“I think there’s always excitement about Aussies playing here,” Federer said. “I played him here last year. The crowd was great. I played him in Davis Cup. Crowds were fair there too. I expect something similar.”
And there will be those hoping for the cocksure Tomic to get his comeuppance at the hands of the dignified Federer.
“Look, I have so much more experience than him,” Federer pointed out. “Last year I reached my 1,000th match on tour. 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.