Roger Federer loss no great shock

Special moment for Andreas Seppi as he finally gets one over former world number one

Roger Federer of Switzerland looks up dejected as he plays Italian Andreas Seppi during their third round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: Andy Brownbill.

Roger Federer of Switzerland looks up dejected as he plays Italian Andreas Seppi during their third round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photograph: Andy Brownbill.

 

in Melbourne The sense of disbelief that swept Melbourne Park after Roger Federer lost to Andreas Seppi in the third round on Friday – for the first time in their 11 meetings and the first time here before his 13 visits to the quarter-finals – hardened into acceptance upon gentler reflection.

Certainly, the 33-year-old Swiss has been playing magnificently last year and in the early weeks of the new season – but only in reaching the final at Wimbledon last year, when he lost a terrific five-setter to Novak Djokovic, has he threatened a serious return to his great days at the highest level.

Yet at this tournament and in the preceding weeks, he had excited belief among the faithful that his gifts were so beautifully synced again that he could find a way through the toughest section of the draw to have another crack at Djokovic.

As it happened he lost to a man he had beaten 10 times before, who had never even taken a set off him, who did not himself really believe he could beat Federer – yet Seppi, ranked 46 in the world, grew in conviction as the match inched his way and, by the time they got to the second tie-break, he was playing without fear.

His final thrust passed Federer at the net and, to the amazement of everyone in the Rod Laver Arena but himself, stayed in and he had won 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) in just under three hours.

He had shot Bambi. Now he was ready for a generational switch, the outrageously talented and confident Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios, who beat the Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-3, 7-6, 6-1.

Later both players gave assessments that provided a balanced and informative picture of one of Federer’s most surprising defeats. “I knew how important that second set tie-breaker was,” said the Swiss. “That hurt, losing that one. [He led 4-1 and 5-3 before giving up the final four points]. The end wasn’t pretty.

“The way he hits [the winner down the line] you think: ‘This can’t possibly land in.’ You’re like: ‘No, I’m going to let it go.’ As you’re telling yourself that, you look behind you and you already know it’s done. Because he was also running into the sun, I have to cover cross-court just in case. That’s where everybody goes. It’s clearly a big blow because I actually hit my forehand pretty good.”

Of their past and the scale of the defeat, Federer said: “We had some good matches. He hits a good ball, forehand and backhand, so I knew that on a quicker court where he gets more help on the serve it was potentially going to be more tricky.”

Curious insight

As for the winner, his biggest challenge was absorbing the importance of what he had just done. “To beat Roger first time, especially in a grand slam best-of-five, is a special moment for me,” said Seppi. “Of course, at the beginning I just went on the court to enjoy the match and to play my best tennis. But especially after the first set I felt, you know, I am there, I am hitting the ball very well. I start to believe that I can do more.” Guardian Service

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