James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — The anticipation was incredible.
Outside of the arena hordes of devotees found any free patch they could to watch the game on one of the giant TV’s.
Inside the crowd got behind their last remaining Aussie, although the level of appreciation for his opponent, the most successful male tennis player of all time was truly striking.
“Go Bernie!” yelled someone, “Roger!” screamed another simply; “Vamos Rafa” shrieked a voice that was rewarded with rippled laughter.
Both Tomic cheer squads were present, The Heard and The Fanatics. Both tried their luck at revving the crowd with various forms of comical theatrics from a man with a giant phone to a man with a giant head.
But to cheer against Federer these days seems like an act of blasphemy.
A contradiction to his statements leading up to the match, Tomic was in awe of his opponent once the final introductions were made.
“A lot of players, when you play these sort of players like Roger or Novak, you lose belief before you get into the match. 80 or 90% of players that play the top guys, like with Roger, you lose your belief. I got in there, I started to think after they mentioned all these Grand Slams leading up, Wimbledon champion six times, six times US Open champion (laughter). Then I was, Oh, crap, it’s Roger. I try to block out who’s on the other side of the net but couldn’t quite do it after that announcement. Yeah, but then that first service game was important. I lost it. Then I was like, Oh, no.”
The one break was all Federer needed to take hold of the set, refusing to be duped into the Tomic game of slice, pace and trickery.
The rallies throughout were on a considerable calibre. The players were evenly matched for both winners and forced errors, although Tomic more than doubled Federer with 41 unforced errors to 20 in the match.
The second set was a tighter affair and Tomic had real chances to make a challenge, serving well in the set and playing aggressively. At 5-3 up in the tiebreak we readied ourselves for a tough match and long night, only for Federer to once again deny.
The great Swiss was at his all court best, sliding and retrieving balls with interest that would have counted out most players.
The seagulls above the open arena roof circled like vultures and alas as the third set turned into a mere formality. Tomic, still reeling from the tiebreak catastrophe, going down with a score line of 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1.
“I thought it was a good match overall. I thought the intensity was good. We had tough rallies. The crowds were great. So I really enjoyed myself out there.” Federer told reporters before adding “Obviously, the result is something I was hoping for, but not sure going into it. So I’m just really pleased that the outcome is what I was hoping for. I’m happy also with my playing. I thought I played really good today. That’s obviously important looking ahead. “
Tomic had talked the talked then walked a little, before being emphatically told to sit down and shut up.
Sportingly Tomic mentioned he would be supporting Federer, “He beat me. I’m satisfied with the result here in Melbourne, especially the last few weeks. Just need to see what he does this tournament. I’m barracking him to win. I’m sure he has a good chance of winning. And, yeah, it’s always a good feeling if you can lose to the champion.”