I understand that it is customary, post-awesome Federer victory, for me to say something nice about his opponent, even if I hate their guts. So here it goes about Bernard Tomic:
Bernard Tomic has vastly improved since he hit the first nadir of his career at the Davis Cup last year. He has improved his serve to a level befitting a player of his height. He upped the pace on his forehand. He plays with more guile than any other player his generation. Clap clap, everyone. Clap clap.
But here’s the other thing, Bernie. If you were going to bait Roger Federer in the media, if you were going to insinuate that he might not make the third round where you’ll be waiting, if you were going to cross the line from confidence to arrogance, to talk up your chances like you have a hot date with destiny, then you better be prepared to either back it up or sit the fuck back down.
In 2007, Novak Djokovic came into the Australian Open much like Bernard Tomic, a recent winner in Adelaide and talking tough in the media. Federer is going down, he said. Why he didn’t just paint a bullseye on his back and dangle a piece of carrot in front of Federer’s face we will never know, but the result was uncannily like the Tomic match yesterday. Except for a brief period in the second set when things got tight, Federer was in control the whole way, building early leads and playing devastating tennis. Tennis that Djokovic, at that point in time, simply had no answer for.
And so it seems just so historical for history to repeat itself. 6 years later, Tomic thought he might chop up some wood and feed them into McFudd’s competitive fire. As if Federer needed it – the man who came out onto Rod Laver Arena last night to win his 250th grand slam match was sharp, hungry, and fired up. Except for a brief period in the second set tiebreak when things didn’t just get tight – they got away from Federer, Federer was in control and in the lead the whole way. His defence was outrageous. His forehand didn’t fail him on key points. He didn’t shy away from hitting his backhand. And when he was down 1-4 in the second set tiebreak, Federer didn’t put a foot wrong.
We’ve all seen this from him before – those matches where he enters a phase of hyperlucidity, seemingly only doing what is needed to win, but doing it in a spectacular fashion. But for me, seeing it live in a stadium full of Aussies simultaneously rooting for a Tomic win and wanting to be wowed by Federer, it was thrilling, the perfect full stop to cap off my week at Melbourne Park.