Federer schools Tomic, reaches quarters
Roger Federer was all class in his win on Rod Laver while the atmosphere over on Hisense in the match between No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 10 Nicolas Almagro was anything but.
There was bad blood between Berdych and Almagro by the time their fourth-round match finished at the Australian Open. Berdych, who won 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 after hitting 70 winners, refused to shake hands with the Spaniard at the end and was loudly booed by the big crowd on Hisense Arena.
Meanwhile, on Rod Laver in the most highly anticipated match of the day, Federer put 19-year-old Bernard Tomic in his place by beating the young Australian 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.
The spat between Berdych and Almagro came about because the big Czech was forced to duck when Almagro hit a ball straight at his head. The ball actually hit Berdych on the arm and, although his opponent moved forward to apologize, Berdych turned his back and walked away.
At the end of the match — in a very unusual occurrence on the tour — Berdych refused to shake hands. The crowd let him know what they thought all through the on-court interview which was virtually drowned out by boos.
Pressed on the subject later, Almagro would only say, "I tried to win the point. That's all. I just tried to win the point. I apologized three four times. If there is a problem, ask him."
Berdych tried to play down the whole thing in press conference but the issue would not go away. "From the side of Nico was maybe not what should be happening in the tennis and that's it," he said. "If they (the crowd) want to look at it like this then I think maybe we both did some mistake. So it's even. We are friends. I practice with him many times. So this is something that has come up from emotions. It's already past."
Except it wasn't. So Berdych elaborated. "Probably everybody who played tennis knows the court is pretty big and you always have the space to put the ball in. And not, if you stand three or four meters close to the guy just try to hit it straight in your face. I was lucky to be able to fall down and just hit me on the arm. He should play the ball differently."
When it was pointed out that Almagro had apologized, Berdych was unimpressed. "You think this is enough, to apologize?" he asked.
Not much backing down there. He plays Rafael Nadal next and there won't be much backing down in that match, either. Although, hopefully, they won't try to hit each other.
The Federer-Tomic encounter could hardly have been more different in style and temperament. The young Australian is an extremely cool customer and although he was playing his boyhood idol, he showed very few signs of nerves and actually played the better tennis during the first eight games of the match. Then Federer got his bearings and turned the whole thing into a master class.
"Have you ever seen anything better?" asked former Wimbledon doubles champion Mark Woodforde. "At 4-all Roger just seemed to say, 'Right, now this is how you play tennis.'"
Some of the shot making that followed was beautiful to behold and one backhand half volley, which he had to reach back for before sliding it down the line for a clean winner, won't soon be forgotten. Tomic gave him an old-fashioned look as if to say, "Really? You can do that?"
The Australian took a very mature attitude over the whole experience. "It's a very good experience to play a player like that," he said. "Last time when I played him (in Davis Cup) I learned a lot of things and this time I learned even more."
Although Tomic was obviously disappointed not to have done better after pulling off three fine victories, he kept his sense of humor. "Never did experience balls that I hit that hard coming back as winners," he laughed. "It's good to watch, you know. Even for me, playing you know, I enjoyed watching it."
The crowd of 15,000 enjoyed it too and applauded both men off court. A little different from the scene at Hisense.
In the final match of the day, Caroline Wozniacki, the world No. 1, stayed on course for what would be her first Grand Slam title by dismissing former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-0, 7-5. In the quarterfinals, the Dane will play defending champion Kim Clijsters, providing Clijsters has no bad reaction to the ankle she twisted against Li Na.