Roger Federer: Breaking Down FedEx's Third-Round Match vs. Bernard Tomic
His next opponent, Bernard Tomic, is the last Australian in the tournament that bears his country's designation and is coincidentally one of the hottest-playing tennis stars on the planet right now.
Simply put, Saturday's match could be the best one before we hit the semifinals.
We all know what Federer can do. His backhand game and patented style have both been on display over the first few days of the tournament, and there's a strong case to be made that he is still the favorite for the event, despite the emergence of names like Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
For those that are hearing about Tomic for the first time, the 20-year-old Aussie came to fame as a junior Grand Slam title winner in 2008, winning the Australian Open Junior Grand Slam title, and again in 2009, when he won the same designation at the U.S. Open.
Now a professional, he's sitting on a 10-match winning streak in which he has held 76 straight service games, has a win over Djokovic on his 2013 calendar and is eager to avenge his fourth-round loss to FedEx from the 2012 Australian Open.
Third-round matches don't usually provide much intrigue, but this one certainly goes against that general consensus.
For starters, Tomic is widely considered to be one of the rising stars of the sport. His father, a former tennis star himself, brings his background to the forefront while also giving the youngster something to aim for when it comes to his own career.
A fiery character, Tomic has had countless run-ins with authority figures on the circuit, the media and the police, including a failure to stop charge last November.
He's also poured fuel on the fire with comments about this potential match even prior to its existence, as reported by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated:
Here's the kid's response when asked about facing Federer in the third round:
Q: "Third round against Roger Federer, can you beat him?"
A: "Well, if he gets that far."
Bold words from a man yet to win a Grand Slam, especially when talking about one of the most decorated stars in the history of the sport. If nothing else, it's making for exciting tennis, when Federer's style and cool appearance will collide with brash and unopposed fury.
Federer will have to withstand a strong crowd presence—even if he is the greatest of all time.
Tomic will bring home the Australian crowd and will likely come out firing early, especially when he is on the serve. With that 76 consecutive service games streak still alive, Tomic will surely try and overpower FedEx in the early part of the match with a few choice serves.
It's the middle of this match that will determine the winner. Federer will bring his own power serve game to the table and a slew of experience in weathering early storms from motivated opponents. As the match goes on, Tomic will have to settle in and find a way to trade jabs with Federer both in long returns and when Federer grabs a set or two.
It's set to be an exciting match in Melbourne, and it's the one we all expected when the draw was announced. In a battle of an up-and-comer and the wily veteran who still performs at an elite level, there will be plenty of storylines to follow.
Tomic didn't win a set against Federer in this tournament in 2012. He'll expect to win three during this third-round match, but Federer isn't just some wall on the other side. Make sure and mark this one down on your calendar.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.
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