Australian Open 2012: Roger Federer defeats Bernard Tomic

Federer tames tyro Tomic but Aussie youngster looks set for stardom

If Roger Federer had lost his Australian Open fourth round match to Bernard Tomic it would doubtless have been heralded as the beginning of the end for probably the greatest player of his or any other generation.

Instead he handed out a lesson with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory, and the only thing we could be sure of is that it represented the end of the beginning for the 19-year-old Australian.

For Tomic has now shown that his Wimbledon quarter-final appearance was far from a one-off and his rapid improvement suggests that it will not be long before he is a significant star in his own right.

Imperious: Roger Federer swept aside Bernard Tomic to reach the last eight

Imperious: Roger Federer swept aside Bernard Tomic to reach the last eight

He looked a little weary after losing the first set, and the anticlimactic 1hr 44min contest proved the kind of easy win that marked the first week for the top seeds.

Good old Lleyton Hewitt, trying to avoid annihilation by Novak Djokovic on Monday, was left as the last man standing for Australia, but that will surely not be the case a year from now.

Tomic, with his graceful, unorthodox style that makes it look like he is caressing the ball, is on the way up, and although he disappointed the nation in this much-hyped encounter, Federer knows he will be a force.

‘You can see how much progress he has made in the last four or five months,’ said Federer. ‘He is going to be a great player but the important thing is to let him get on with it. When I was 19 I was being anointed as the next Pete Sampras when I hadn’t even won a title and all I could think was, “Please, just give me a little more time”. That’s what Bernard needs.’

Dejected: Aussie Tomic was devastated after his straight-sets defeat

Dejected: Aussie Tomic was devastated after his straight-sets defeat

Tomic has established himself at the head of a group of young talents such as Canada’s Milos Raonic, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Murray’s American first-round victim Ryan Harrison, who are on course to mount a challenge to the biggest names in the next few years.

For now the lower half of the men’s quarter-finals has a predictable enough line-up that will see Federer playing his 1,000th career match, meeting the resurgent 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, whom he viewed as a potential world No 1 before a wrist injury struck him down.

Rafael Nadal, who won comfortably against Feliciano Lopez, also has an awkward task, taking on former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who was involved in a bad-tempered encounter with Nicolas Almagro.

In form: Rafael Nadal also made steady progress as he beat Feliciano Lopez

In form: Rafael Nadal also made steady progress as he beat Feliciano Lopez

The normally placid Berdych refused to shake his opponent’s hand at the end after being incensed by an incident in the fourth set when Almagro drilled the ball at his upper body from close range by the net. His declining of the Spaniard’s hand brought about a cacophony of booing during the on-court interview afterwards. Berdych was actually hit on the shoulder and, as Almagro hit the ball on the run, was being somewhat flaky.

But the Czech felt it could have been worse: ‘The court is pretty big and there’s always space to place the ball, even if you stand three of four metres apart. He tried to hit it straight in my face. I was lucky it just hit me on the arm,’ he insisted.

There was drama of a less controversial nature as Kim Clijsters, in a repeat of last year’s final against Li Na, saved four match points from 6-2 down in the tiebreak to reach the quarter -finals with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 win.

The Chinese player should have won on the last of them when she had the court at her mercy but instead tried a hopelessly misjudged drop-shot.