Federer, Tomic trade barbs at Australian Open

Will Swanton
Roger Federer of Switzerland (R) shakes hands with Bernard Tomic of Australia after their fourth-round match at the Australian Open on January 22, 2012. Tomic was left shaking his head in disbelief as he was taken apart by Federer. This time around, his attitude is a little less reverent

One year ago, a star-struck Bernard Tomic was left shaking his head in disbelief as he was taken apart by the great Roger Federer. This time around, his attitude is a little less reverent.

Rather than paying homage to the mighty Swiss, the cocksure Australian has taken a distinctly different tack, cheekily suggesting Federer may lose before their expected clash in the Australian Open's third round.

"Well, if he gets that far," was the response of Tomic to being drawn against Federer, for a likely prime-time clash inside Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.

"I would love to get in that position to play Roger in the third round. He has to get there as well. You don't know what can happen. Tennis is a funny sport. So we'll see."

Given that Federer, who meets Nikolay Davydenko in round two on Thursday, is on a run of 34 straight Grand Slam quarter-finals, it was an impertinent suggestion.

To meet Federer, Tomic must first beat German qualifier Daniel Brands. Last year, he only took eight games off the 17-time Grand Slam champion as he went down in straight sets in the fourth round.

At the same age as Tomic, Federer had only one tournament victory before going on to amass a record-breaking 17 majors. But Federer has been distinctly cool about the controversial young Australian.

"Is he playing first?" Federer said, when asked if he would watch Tomic's opening match on TV. "Second? I don't know. I haven't got my plan yet for tonight, my dinner plans."

Federer, 31, also cast doubt on Tomic's ambition of cracking the top 10 within a year, calling it a "big ask".

"Let's speak in a year's time. Everybody wants to jump from, what's his ranking, 60, to 10 in a year. It's hard to do. Ten is a big ask," he said.

"Don't forget how tough the top 10 players are right now."

It was reminiscent of Federer's attitude in the build-up to the equally hyped clash with Tomic at the Australian Open last year.

Tomic needed to beat Ukraine's mercurial Alexandr Dolgopolov to reach the fourth round and face Federer.

Asked if he had viewed Tomic versus Dolgopolov, Federer replied: "An entertaining match. I was laughing like everyone else. But it did take four hours out of my day."

The message was clear. Tomic was little more than nuisance value. Hardly a serious threat. Some 48 hours later, Federer schooled him 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

It was not the first time Federer, who is known to store remarks from opponents as motivational weaponry, has put a young upstart in his place at Melbourne Park.

Famously, a young Novak Djokovic told an Australian TV station in 2007 that he would beat Federer in the fourth round. Federer was world number one and already on the road to becoming an all-time great. Djokovic, 18, was unproven.

Federer learned of the Serb's boastful prediction and vowed to remind him who's boss. The result? A pointed 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 triumph to Federer. Then and now, he wants the last word.