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Tomic bandwagon on collision course with Federer express

Federer of Switzerland hits a return to Karlovic of Croatia at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne
Federer of Switzerland hits a return to Karlovic of Croatia at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer will take on teenager Bernard Tomic and 15,000 of his compatriots on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday evening in the highlight of the seventh day of the Australian Open.

Starved of a local men's champion since 1976, Australians have piled on board the Tomic bandwagon with gusto at Melbourne Park this year as the 19-year-old battled his way to the fourth round.

The rollercoaster ride could come to a shuddering halt, however, when the world number 38 comes up against the four-times champion Swiss, who last failed to reach the quarter-finals here in 2003.

Having taken a few games off Rafa Nadal in the third round on the same court last year, Tomic should be able to handle the occasion but might struggle to impose his unorthodox playing style on Federer.

"I hope I play good against him," said Tomic. "I have to play good against him. I have to play good to have any chance, I think.

"Against Roger you need to know how to play tennis and need to play tennis well if I have any chance of beating him. That's why he's the greatest to play the sport."

Spanish 2009 champion Nadal is also in action on Sunday against compatriot Feliciano Lopez, while former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro takes on unseeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber out on Margaret Court Arena.

Caroline Wozniacki, who needs to beat Jelena Jankovic to have any chance of emerging from the year's first grand slam as world number one, will have to wait until the Federer-Tomic show is finished before she gets to take the limelight on Rod Laver.

The most intriguing match in the women's draw takes place earlier on the main showcourt, however, when defending champion Kim Clijsters faces China's Li Na in a repeat of last year's final.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

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