By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Roger Federer crushed the hopes of a nation by dismantling local favorite Bernard Tomic 6-4 7-6 6-1 to sail into the last 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday and leave a packed center court crowd stunned.
The much-hyped clash between the Swiss maestro and his 20-year-old opponent briefly caught fire in the middle stages but ultimately fizzled out under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, as Federer marched to a clinical 118-minute victory.
The highly-fancied Australian raised the stakes in the leadup, declaring himself confident of upsetting the 17-times grand slam champion.
He came within two points of snatching the second set tiebreak in an atmosphere akin to a soccer match, but was left demoralized as Federer wrenched back the momentum with a brilliant counter-attack.
The opportunity lost, Tomic promptly collapsed, losing his serve in the opening game of the third set to fall behind 3-0, before Federer closed out the match with a monster serve.
The result was a repeat of last year's fourth-round clash, when Federer trounced the young Australian in straight sets.
"I think overall we both played a great match ... (he) really got the best out of me tonight so I hope he can keep it up," Federer said in a courtside interview.
"It's nice that you guys invite me back every year ... It's not my favorite part of the job beating up on the home heroes."
Federer next plays another young gun in 13th-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic as he bids for an 18th grand slam title and fifth at Melbourne Park.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Patrick Johnston)
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