Roger Federer silenced the chatter Saturday night, swiftly beating Bernard Tomic 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-1 to become the first man to win 250 Grand Slam matches.
Tomic, 20, made waves all week with his controversial remarks about Federer, 31, repeatedly telling the press that he wasn't sure Federer would even progress to the third round for their highly anticipated match. Well, Federer did show up and handed Tomic his first loss of the year.
"He stopped me, he beat me," Tomic said. "Full credit to him. He was the best player and greatest of all time. I'm going to continue to work hard."
"We had some great [rallies]," Federer said, "and I had to be able to bring the whole repertoire, I guess, to the court today, defense and offense, which I enjoy."
Federer may have won in straight sets, but it was not routine. We can question Tomic's big talk, but for two sets the young Aussie showed how much he's improved since last year (when he lost 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to Federer in Melbourne). Tomic forced Federer to bring brilliance. The loss didn't seem to deter Tomic much. He said he's happy with not only the way he played but also how well he competed. Who knows how the match could have changed if Tomic had held on to his mini-break lead in the second-set tiebreaker. It's not like he gave it away; Federer took it from him.
More impressive than what Tomic was doing with his racket was what he was doing with his legs. No longer the pure counterpuncher, Tomic's forehand was solid throughout, but Federer's defense to the forehand corner was incredible all night.
"He is the greatest our sport's ever had," Tomic said. "You learn something every time you watch him. I learned something tonight as well. You use this and you use it in a good way. It's going to make me a better player. I'm going to keep working hard."
Tomic will move on to the European indoor season before hitting the American hard courts in the spring. The key for Tomic will be to sustain this level of play so he can build confidence and get his ranking up to secure easier draws at the bigger tournaments. Tomic's successful Australian run -- which included his first ATP title (in Sydney) and a victory against Novak Djokovic in an exhibition match at the Hopman Cup -- is no major surprise. The anti-Sam Stosur, this Aussie has always played his best tennis on home soil. The question is whether he can bring it for the remaining 10 months of the season. "He's had a great run now," Federer said. "I hope he knows what he needs to do the next few months, weeks and years ahead. Isn't always a two-month tour. You know, we play 10, 11 months of the year, it's bring it every single day."