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Day 6 on Tap: Weekend at Bernie’s for Federer

By Chris Oddo

Bernard Tomic, Round two, 2013 Australian Open (January 18, 2013) -- It’s time to put up or shut up for the last remaining Aussie in either draw, Bernard Tomic. And you better believe that a packed-to-the-rafters Rod Laver Arena will be doing everything they can to ensure that he puts up when he takes the court against Roger Federer in the first match of the night session on Saturday evening in Melbourne.

All this and more will be keeping our attention as the first week of the 2013 rounds the bend. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

Roger Federer vs. Bernard Tomic, 1st Match, Night Session

“It’s very strange,” said Bernard Tomic, after his fourth-round loss to Roger Federer in last year’s Australian Open. “Never did experience my balls that I hit that hard to come back and be a winner. Even for me, you know, playing, I enjoy watching it.”

Tomic might not enjoy it as much if he endures another thrashing at the hands of Federer this year, and he certainly won’t take a moral victory from being 4-4 in the first set with the Swiss maestro like he was in that match.

But as good as Tomic’s form has been (he’s 8-0 on the year, and coming up with personal bests from the service line), Federer might be in better form. What else is new? The 31-year-old, four-time Australian Open champion looks to be in as good a form as ever after knocking off Benoit Paire and Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets in the first two rounds.

After dropping a set to Tomic in their first encounter on grass, Federer has won the last six against the 20-year-old. He owns a 3-0 career record against Tomic, but he’ll be facing a ramped-up serve from the Aussie, and one that has proven to be very difficult to read in 2013.

There lies the key to the match: Can Tomic keep up his torrid pace at the service stripe, or, rather, have Federer and coach Paul Annacone done their homework in terms of developing a strategy to negate Tomic’s suddenly world-class serving? If Federer gets early breaks, he should steamroll his challenger, but if Tomic can roll through service games and keep things close, this match has the potential to be a very tricky, tense affair.

Either way, with the hopped-up Aussie faithful on holiday and looking for a good time, this match should be one of the highlights of week one, whether it is close or not.

Sloane Stephens vs. Laura Robson, Court 2, 3rd match

In keeping with the teeny-bopper theme on the women’s side, we’ll highlight this sure-to-be awesome match-up between the two most promising youngsters in the women’s game.

In a rematch of their first-round encounter in Hobart just over a week ago, won by Stephens 6-4, 7-6(4), expect another hard-fought battle between these two fan favorites. After watching each rocket up the rankings in the last year, one can only imagine what shape this developing rivalry will take over the next decade. Will they meet in Grand Slam finals? Battle for the WTA’s No. 1 ranking?

It all begins right here with the pair’s first Grand Slam meeting on Court 2...

Milos Raonic vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber, Court 3, 3rd Match

Here is Milos Raonic, pushing up against that wall again. The 22-year-old Thornhill, Ontario resident has been knocking on that door for well over a year now, but he has yet to find the magic potion for a Grand Slam breakout to match his splendid game. Raonic has been solid, if tentative at times, so far in Melbourne, but he’ll have to snap into attack mode if he hopes to get by the cagey veteran Phillip Kohlschreiber on Saturday. The 29-year-old German with a gorgeous one-handed backhand reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time last year at Wimbledon, and he’s got a little more big match experience than the young Canadian.

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Carla Suarez Navarro, Court 2, 1st Match

Sveta’s streak of 40 consecutive Grand Slam appearances (which featured two, ahem, titles) ended at last year’s U.S. Open. Is she back with a vengeance?

Juan Martin del Potro vs. Jeremy Chardy, Hisense Arena, 2nd Match

Juan Martin del Potro has been absolutely on fire in his first two matches in Melbourne. It’s early, we know, but if the 2009 U.S. Open champion keeps rolling through opponents like a knife through butter, he may have the perfect set-up for another surprise run at a Slam title: Fresh legs -- so important for a big man like Delpo in the second week of a Slam -- and a game that is firing on all cylinders. But this match with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy could be Del Potro’s toughest yet. Chardy has been in better form since last summer. He’s finally starting to come into his own as a player and could be headed for the top 20 by the end of the season.

Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Bojana Jovanovski, Court 2, 4th Match

A 42-year-old playing against a 21-year-old? You see that stuff all the time at family picnics, but in the third round of the first Grand Slam of the year? Date-Krumm may have said it best herself when she explained to reporters that it’s “like a miracle” that she’s in the third round in Melbourne.

“Is it?” a reporter asked.

“Yes,” Date-Krumm replied. Still, the reporter didn’t believe it.

“Even for you?”

“Yes,” she insisted.

So there you have it. Come watch a real live miracle take on an up-and-coming Serbian on Court 2 today, you won’t regret it.

Gilles Simon vs. Gael Monfils, Hisense Arena, 7 P.M.

The Frenchmen have put on a good show in Melbourne (eat your heart out, America) sending six players to the third round. But only one of these two polar opposites can make it to the round of 16. Monfils, who became just the 9th player in Grand Slam history to rain down 20 aces and 20 double faults in the same match in his second-round struggle against Yen-Hsun Lu, may be running on fumes in this one.

In other words, Simon, a consummate pusher with an underrated feel and understanding of the game, might have Monfils just where he wants him...


(Photo Credit: Mark Peterson/ Corleve)


 

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