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Andy Murray's ready to stand up and be counted

By Wayne Gardiner

Andy Murray and 15 others will take to the Wimbledon courts today hoping to make it into the last eight, and among them is a name that will not be too familiar to many neutrals.

Away from the big guns of Murray - who faces Richard Gasquet - Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic sits Bernard Tomic, an 18-year-old Australian of German descent.

Tomic, a qualifier at SW19, hails from the Gold Coast and is Australia's latest firebrand, following in the footsteps of Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt.

He went one better than Hewitt, though, knocking out fifth seed Robin Soderling in three sets, righting the apparent wrong of the Swede's five-set comeback against Hewitt in the second round.

He goes up against Xavier Malisse today - he could have been given a harder task - and his progress has been noted by some of the leading lights.

"Tomic is still lower in the rankings but it seems like he's making a run," said Federer, a comparative elder statesman at 29.

"It's good for tennis if new generations move in. When you're at the practice courts, you see how well these guys are hitting the ball," he said.

"The next generation is pushing through, too, which is going to make the generation of 21-year-olds aware of that and keep them wanting to improve.

"When I was that age I thought it was stressful to some degree, because everyone is expecting you to break through, and if you don't, people always ask 'what's wrong with you man?'"

It certainly promises to be interesting when the defending champion Rafael Nadal takes on Juan Martin del Potro.

The 24th seed is back on tour and back on song after a lengthy absence with a wrist injury and Nadal's claim that he belongs in the top five was strengthened when the current incumbent of fifth place, Soderling, was dumped out by Tomic.

Del Potro will no doubt be zoning in on making the current 'big four' a quintet.

Former champions Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe have suggested the top men are too friendly but, with a number of them likely to collide this week, Nadal believes their comradeship is healthy for the sport.

"I think it is better, better than another way," the Mallorcan said.

"For the kids especially, the education is special. Something very, very important. If the kids watching us saw us fight every week, probably in the future they will do the same and in my opinion that is not a good way for the world to work.

"What happens outside of the court doesn't affect what's going to happen inside the court."

For his part, Federer will look to move one step closer to a ninth Wimbledon final and a seventh crown when he takes on Mikhail Youzhny, while Murray goes up against his old sparring partner Gasquet.

Murray took a memorable five-setter between the pair in 2008 and the British number one knows how dangerous an opponent Gasquet can be.

"He's a very talented player," he said. "I've played him many times. I grew up playing with him. He's been in the top 10 in the world before.

"He beat Federer in Rome a few months ago and he's given guys a lot of problems in the past."

Gasquet's fellow Frenchman Michael Llodra has the unenviable task of trying to stop Novak Djokovic, who has lost just one of his 45 matches this year.

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