Fed offers travel tip to Tomic

FOR Bernard Tomic, the message has come repeatedly from Novak Djokovic, from Patrick Rafter, and now from Roger Federer.

It is all very well to shine at home, to thrive on your cosy local circuit, a big court, a friendly surface. But part of the reason Tomic is still some distance from the top-10 position he covets is that although the tennis season starts in January, it doesn't end there.

Federer is qualified in his praise for the Queenslander, noting a little more maturity, some extra power to complement his renowned touch, variety and finesse, and the benefits of another year of experience on tour.

Having agreed to a request from Rafter to advise his young opponent after the 2011 Davis Cup world group play-off in Sydney and been underwhelmed by the immediate result, Federer can see what Tomic needs to address next.

"He's had a great run now," the second seed said after Saturday night's 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 defeat of the world No.43. "I hope he knows what he needs to do the next few months, weeks, and years ahead.

"He seemed like a very good player today to me. So you would definitely expect him to rise in the rankings, get better draws as we go forward, plays more consistent, gets more confident. That's how you make your move, really."

In 2008, 15-year-old Tomic became the youngest Australian Open boys champion, then struggled to replicate that form in junior slams elsewhere.

In 2010, a senior match win at Melbourne Park preceded just a single tour-level win for the rest of the year. In 2011, he qualified in Sydney and claimed two top-50 scalps at the Open, where he also pushed Rafael Nadal, before, the Wimbledon quarter-finals aside, managing just eight victories in 14 other tournaments on foreign soil.

Then last year. His debut ATP semi-final in Brisbane, then the fourth round of the Australian Open, for nine January wins, and losses only to Andy Murray and Federer.

After that: a 14-25 record in tournaments outside Australia for the rest of a troubled season.

Despite surprising Hewitt with his improvement on much-loathed clay, the former No.1 noted that "the wheels fell off around grasscourt time", before Tomic spluttered through several hardcourt controversies to a finish line that could not come quickly enough.

The 20-year-old acknowledges it is not enough to be a hero at home; that it is also important to show some valour in the field. He has done it on the Wimbledon lawns, after all, and believes his improved pre-season attitude and effort have left him well-prepared to succeed further away.

"I didn't quite do it after I left here [last year]," he said, having played some career-best tennis in the second set against Federer. "I've got the right goal, the mindset to do what it is I need to do."

Tomic is sure he has the game, having played more forcefully, and offensively, against Federer than the three times before.

"So now it's just a matter for him to keep it up," Federer said. "That's the proof he's the much-improved player. But it's only over time that you're going to see."

There were encouraging words at the net afterwards.

"He said, 'Keep going, you improved,' " Tomic recalled, before Federer revealed the Rafter-prompted pep talk in Sydney 17 months ago, when he spent five or 10 minutes suggesting ways that Tomic could do just that.

"Things didn't go better for him after that," the Swiss noted, wryly. "But maybe deep down he does listen and does want to improve. But, look, I'm not a coach. I'm just a player out there who feels his weight of shot and potential.

"It's nice he listens to me. But it's important he listens to his team and does the best for himself and for his country."

So is Federer now seeing the results of his wise counsel?

"I think he's improved as a whole," he said. "Obviously one more year on tour is going to make you improve as a player, mentally, physically, all these things.

"Yeah, it's going to be an interesting year again. I like to watch the younger players, how they create their team, how they handle wins, losses, the press. There's a lot of pressure as well on the younger guys. I enjoy seeing them face all that."

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