MELBOURNE, Jan 19 (Reuters) - It will be time for Australia’s Bernard Tomic to put up or shut up when he faces 17-times grand-slam champion Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open tennis on Saturday.
Local favourite Tomic and Federer have traded barbs since the draw for the season’s opening grand slam was made last week and the Swiss has been repeatedly questioned about the prospect of facing the brash 20-year-old in the third round.
”I feel so confident. This is the perfect time to play him,“ said Tomic who is unbeaten in 2013 after winning three matches at the Hopman Cup in Perth before taking his first ATP Tour title in Sydney. ”I’ve got a good attitude to win.
“I’ve beaten a lot of good players over the last past two weeks, especially Novak,” he added in reference to beating world number one Djokovic at the Hopman Cup.
”I‘m ready. I mean, I‘m not going to say I don’t have the belief; 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.”
Federer graciously deflected most questions put to him about the Australian world number 43 but did remind local fans that Tomic had a poor 2012, even though he was now playing well, and still had a lot to do to prove himself.
Before the tournament began, both men were openly sceptical about their opponents even making it as far as the third round.
“He‘s...got his work cut out in the first few rounds,” the Swiss world number two said. “He will be making a mistake about thinking about me in the third round because he also has to get there.”
In turn, Tomic, who lost to Federer in the fourth round at Melbourne Park last year, reckoned the Swiss could have trouble in his second-round match against Russian Nikolay Davydenko.
“He’s playing a guy that’s beaten him before. It’s not easy playing Davydenko,” Tomic said on Thursday. “I‘m sure Roger knows that as well. You can’t take anyone lightly, especially someone that’s been in the top five for like six years.”
Federer duly won the clash against Davydenko in straight sets to prove Tomic wrong.
U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, who has quietly gone about his quarter of the draw, will face Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis, a player he knows well, in Saturday’s final day match in Rod Laver Arena.
”I actually hit with him a lot,“ Briton Murray said. ”I trained with him before the Australian Open last year. I practised with him again in Brisbane this year.
“Nice to see him do well because we spent quite a bit of time practising together.”
Women’s champion Victoria Azarenka and tournament favourite Serena Williams will get an opportunity to assess each other’s form, after their pre-Australian Open showdown in Brisbane was stymied by Azarenka’s infected toe, with Williams following the world number one on to centre court.
The Belarusian will play American Jamie Hampton in the first match, while Williams will meet Japan’s Ayumi Morita. (Editing by Clare Fallon)