Federer beats Tomic and the hype

For the briefest of moments, it seemed like like the outrageous promise might be kept. Breaking Federer’s serve at 1-1 in the tiebreak with another pace laden forehand to draw an error, the young Australian pumped his fist and took in the roar of the crowd. Consolidating the mini-break with a forehand winner at the net to lead 4-1, he was three service winners from leveling at a set all and, with the momentum swinging his way, who knew what could happen at the start of the third.
Serving at 5-3, Tomic looked to be in control of the point as he hit to Federer’s forehand and backhand, getting him on the run, hitting down the middle, mixing it up and looking to find the opening that would not come as the Federer ground strokes refused to break down. Federer, having had enough of dancing to Tomic’s tune, injected some pace on his forehand into yet another soft ball hit to the middle of the court. Tomic fed off the pace, hitting to the Federer forehand corner, but not hard enough for the Swiss moved comfortably to the ball, hitting a forehand back to Tomic, who, the exciting prospect of the open court before him, went for a forehand down the line, but, out of position, he hit the ball wide.
The moment had gone. Federer was back in the tiebreak. At 6-5, Tomic serving, Federer attacked the Tomic backhand with a flat forehand, following the shot up to the net, however the approach was unnecessary as Tomic’s shot went long. Federer had won the set and was one set away from beating both Tomic and the hype.
The hype had begun even before 2013 had gotten underway when Tomic beat Djokovic in straight sets in the Hopman Cup. Certainly he had played well, with an improved serve and his forehand finely tuned, adding an extra punch to his varied and fluid game. If that was not enough to get the media excited with the home Major just a few weeks away, Tomic won his first title in Sydney, stating beforehand that he was ready to win his first title and the result proving he was a man of his word.
With the draw having been made for the Australian Open the day before the Sydney final, the title victory for Tomic had people already talking about the third round prospect of a meeting between the freshly first-titled Tomic and the as yet 2013 debuted Federer. But they were not just talking about the potential clash of the past and new generations, they were implying that an upset could be on the cards, that Tomic, who in the previous Major in New York had been accused of tanking and whose Davis Cup performance had the national press in uproar, on the back of a win against Djokovic at a home exhibition event and a run to a title during which he did not beat a member of the top 20, this very same Tomic was ready to beat a man who was number two in the world, the reigning Wimbledon Champion, a man who was perhaps the Greatest player in the history of tennis, a man who was still at the top of his game, a four time champion in Melbourne, who had not lost before the semi-finals since 2003. Tomic’s comments before the match that Federer might not make the last 32 were as unrealistic as the home Media’s expectation that if the 17 time Major winner did make the last 32, his run would end at the undoubtedly fine hands of their new fickly-crowned King.
Of course, in a tennis match it is about what happens on the day. Two players compete and whoever has the better day wins. But one player usually, based on past form and match ups, goes in as the favorite. With Federer ending 2012 as a WTF finalist, beating the likes of Murray in straights, and leading Tomic 3-0 in their head to head including a straight sets drubbing here a year back, all signs would point to Federer being the favored victor. Perhaps the hype was a little misty-eyed at the memory of homeboy Mark Philippoussis straight-setting world number one Pete Sampras in 1996 in the third round. But that was a whole different ball game. Sampras had only won once in Melbourne and the two had met in the previous Major in New York with Sampras coming back from a set down to win. Philippoussis, with his huge serve and forehand, was a bad match-up for Pete, and a victory was within his capability at that point. While, as the first two sets proved in Federer and Tomic’s match last night, Tomic can compete with Federer, the third set demonstrated why the Australian was never going to be a threat.
Once Federer had Tomic beaten mentally, that moment when it seemed Tomic might be able to sustain his high level and edge out the Swiss in the second set being scuppered and the reality of the Swiss’ superiority hitting home, Federer did not relinquish his grip, unleashing his flair and creativity to wipe the floor with the hyped-one. After surviving a break point in the opening game, he broke Tomic immediately and ran away with the set 6-1. It was a victory for Federer which laughed in the face of the hype and called it out for what it was. And it was a defeat for Tomic that, from the way in which he fell to the side so swiftly in the third, would, if he were to admit it, not have come as a surprise. The Australian is very much on his way to challenging the likes of Federer but he is not there yet and he would do well to beat a big name in a Major before stating otherwise. His words before this third round match, while understandable considering his age and his talent, were exposed as empty promises, and anyone who expected him to keep them, considering his lack of previous deeds to back the promise up, was as much a victim to the hype as the hype, its hollow screams no doubt filling the Swiss with a desire to silence it, was a victim to the ever-hungry Federer.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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