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Federer hands Tomic a lesson


Because of a major systems failure there was no internet access around Melbourne Park for more than four hours yesterday. Officials here at the Australian Open had to stay in touch via walkie-talkies, umpires had to record scores with pen and paper.

The link with cyberspace was repaired in mid-afternoon but, by the end of the day, Australia was once again remembering how things used to be. Lleyton Hewitt is once again the host nation's last singles representative here. Not that the world No 181 is expected to be around much longer: his fourth-round opponent today is Novak Djokovic.

For all his gritty determination, Hewitt is yesterday's man. Tomorrow waits at the feet of Bernard Tomic (above), a 19-year-old from Queensland. Tomic's run in the first week was ended last night by his boyhood hero, Roger Federer, who gave the apprentice a masterclass, winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. "It's very good experience to play a player like that," Tomic said. "I don't think there will ever be as good a player as him. I think you can only learn what he does."

Tomic believes he will have closed the gap on the world's top four within 18 months, provided he can continue to improve physically. "Having played all the top four guys now and Roger twice, I think there is a lot for me in the future," Tomic said. Federer said Tomic had had "a wonderful tournament" and added: "Now it's about keeping that up time and time again, day in, day out."

Victory in his 999th singles match as a senior professional took Federer to his 31st Grand Slam quarter-final in succession, a remarkable statistic when you consider that only five other players (Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Tomas Berdych and Albert Montanes) have played in each of the last 31 Grand Slam tournaments.

If he wins the title here, Federer will pass Jimmy Connors' all-time record of 233 victories in Grand Slam tournaments, but he next faces a major test in the quarter-finals, where he is scheduled to meet Juan Martin del Potro. The winner will play either Rafael Nadal or Tomas Berdych. Nadal beat Lopez 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, while Berdych beat Nicolas Almagro 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. The quarter-finalists in the top half of the draw will be known today. Djokovic or Hewitt will play Richard Gasquet or David Ferrer, while Murray or Mikhail Kukushkin will meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Kei Nishikori.