ROGER Federer presumed the then-teenager Bernard Tomic might be intimidated by him when they first met. Then Tomic took a set off him and he figured the kid was confident enough not to be cowed as others might be by the weight of Federer's grand slam titles.
''There's certain characters and certain players that have an easier time to play against good players. I was one of those as well. There's other players who are much more overwhelmed by an occasion like that,'' said Federer ahead of his blockbuster clash with Tomic on Saturday night.
''To me, he seems to be more of a guy that likes to be on centre court, playing against the top guys, feels like he belongs there. I think it's going to be make it easier for him to play me.''
He recognises Tomic's record suggests he is a better player now - 10 straight wins this year. And Federer is mindful of the crowd support for the last remaining Australian. But after 1000 ATP tour matches there is little he has not experienced, weathered and overcome before.
''I don't think it matters whether he's the last Australian or 10 more. I think there's always excitement about Aussies playing here. I played him here last year. The crowd was great. I played him in Davis Cup. Crowds were fair there, too. I expect something similar. If it's not, if it's totally for him, that's fine too.
''I'm always excited when the crowd gets into it.''
Federer was dismissive of the slant on Tomic comments that could suggest he was baiting the former world No.1, cheekily cautioning that Federer had to beat Nikolay Davydenko first to reach him. Federer won in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours. Federer felt the young player might have been ''lured'' into making such comments and so they were irrelevant.
Apparently, though, there is a good time to play Federer and according to Tomic that time is now. ''I feel so confident. This is the perfect time to play him,'' Tomic said. ''I think I've got a good attitude to win. I've beaten a lot of good players over the past two weeks, especially Novak. I think I can do it.
''I'm ready. I mean, I'm not going to say I don't have the belief. I do have the belief now. It's possible. I showed that in Perth (when he defeated Djokovic in the Hopman Cup) that you can beat these players. Now I'm going to try to beat him.''
The easier-said-than-done approach to beating Federer requires breaking him in the first set and putting him on the back foot, Tomic said.
And his serve is now a major weapon. Tomic hit 26 aces en route to his 10th straight win of the summer on Thursday. ''That's probably the best I've ever served,'' Tomic said after beating German qualifier Daniel Brands 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (10-8) in two hours and 55 minutes.
The 20-year-old has now gone 76 consecutive service games without being broken. ''Tells you I'm serving really well,'' he said. ''I'm going to use all this confidence in the next round.''
To progress further, Tomic must now end Federer's record run of 34 consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearances.