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Tomic must make fast start against Federer
By Darren Walton
17:01 AEST Fri Jan 18 2013

It's boom or bust for Bernard Tomic, who says he must win the opening set or perish against fearless frontrunner Roger Federer in their Australian Open blockbuster on Saturday night.

In an unparalleled career, Federer's only three grand slam defeats from a set up against non-major winners have come against finalists David Nalbandian, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling.

It is a frightening record that Tomic is all too aware of heading into their master-versus-apprentice third-round showdown.

"The most important thing against Roger is that I've got to hold and keep it close within the first set," Tomic said.

"If I keep it close in the first set, manage to win that first set, then it can be a different story.

"Being one set to love up is a huge advantage against him. If he frees up and wins that first set, it's different.

"But I'm confident."

Not dropping serve in four matches and 76 games is fuelling Tomic's belief that he can eliminate the second-ranked Federer before the quarter-finals of a slam for the first time since the 2004 French Open.

"I've got my serve, which is a weapon that I can keep holding now against him," the challenger said when asked how he had improved since his three previous losses to the Swiss great.

"Obviously I'm serving good. That's on my side now, so I've got to use that."

Despite playing - and winning - 10 matches in little more than a fortnight and battling stifling heat in his tough second-round victory over German Daniel Brands, Tomic insisted he was feeling "mentally and physically fine".

Federer agreed Tomic would handle the big-time occasion in what is the most anticipated Open men's showdown involving a local hope since Lleyton Hewitt lost the centenary final in 2005 to Marat Safin.

"To me, he seems to be more of a guy that likes to be on centre court, playing against the top guys. He feels like he belongs there," Federer said.

"I think it's going to be make it easier for him to play me.

"Plus, with his confidence, that is also going to help him in the bigger moments to stay more calm."

Nevertheless the 17-times grand slam champion and Wimbledon titleholder was hopeful his vast experience would see him through to the last 16 for the 35th consecutive major.

"Look, I have so much more experience than him. Last year I reached my thousandth match on tour," Federer said.

"I know how hard a five-setter can be. I know how intense a night session can be and all these things.

"Whatever that means - length of rally, length of match, intensity, I've been there.

"That could potentially help me, but it could also not help me.

"We'll see how it goes ... I'll find out many, many things.

"We both have to live up to a big match, big hype, and then we can talk about it afterwards."

Federer was the last player to beat Tomic in Australia, stopping the 20-year-old's run in the fourth round last summer in Melbourne.

He also beat Tomic in their two other career meetings to date - in Davis Cup on grass in Sydney in 2011 and last August in Cincinnati.

The reward for the winner will be a fourth-round date on Monday with either Canadian 13th seed Milos Raonic or German 17th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.