As Lleyton Hewitt goes into battle as the last local hope at the Australian Open, vanquished countryman Bernard Tomic has wished him well.
Tomic's Open run ended with a fourth-round loss to Roger Federer on Sunday night.
Hewitt's unlikely march through the tournament reaches a juncture most expect will be its end, with world number one Novak Djokovic waiting for him on centre court on Monday night.
The two-time grand slam champion, who has slipped to 181 in the rankings, typified his fighting qualities with a resilient four-set win over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic on Saturday to progress to the round of 16.
Tomic, 19, impressed all in his best Australian Open run and a grand slam performance to rival his Wimbledon quarter-final effort last year.
Now the attention turns to 30-year-old Hewitt, who has defied fitness queries to get this far.
"We have done a good job to get to the fourth round," Tomic said of himself and wildcard Hewitt.
"He's got to step out there giving it a go like I did. And, you know, who knows?
"It's tough for him to win that match against Novak, but he will have the crowd on his side, he will try his heart out."
So did the unseeded Tomic, but without success against a red-hot Federer who stepped up in the latter stages of his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win.
The Gold Coast teenager had gone toe-to-toe with the third seed in the first set, before the Swiss ratcheted up his game with some sensational play.
Tomic's wondrous week has convinced him as much as Australian tennis fans that he is capable of taking the next step - and sooner rather than later.
"It could be very soon. The next year, year and a half, if I improve my body and get stronger," he said.
"Having played all the top four guys now, and Roger twice, I think there is a lot for me in the future.
"I'm always going to get better and better. Looking back a year, I was not as good as now.
"And now looking to next year, I'll probably be even better. That's a scary part for me because I know I can improve a lot."
Rafael Nadal also took time to lavish praise on Hewitt's never-say-die fighting qualities, saying he is respected and admired throughout the sport.
Nadal said he was emotional watching Hewitt, a former world number one, giving his all to get past Raonic, at 21, nine years his junior.
"I admire him a lot. I think he deserves the respect and admiration of all the people who love this sport" after so many operations, he said.
"I watched the match at my hotel and even though I have a good relationship with Raonic, his coach is from Spain ... I really got emotional when Lleyton finished," Nadal added.
"He fell to the floor, he was really showing his emotions, so it's something fantastic at this stage after having a fantastic career to keep having this motivation.
"I wish him all the best for the rest of the season. I hope his problems will be fine. He's one of the more charismatic players on tour.
"I always have admired him, his spirit of competition. Today he is an example to follow for a lot of people."
Others aiming to win spots in the quarter-finals in Monday's fourth-round matches are Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
AAP/AFPTags: sport, australian-open, tennis, melbourne-3000, vic, australia First posted January 23, 2012 08:57:13