Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer suffered his earliest defeat at the event in 14 years falling to Andreas Seppi 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(5) in the third round Friday.
Federer, who had won all 10 matches against the 46th-ranked Italian, actually won more points than Seppi, but as the Swiss acknowledged he just won the wrong ones.
Federer also led 4-1 and 5-3 in the second set tiebreaker but was unable to convert. Down two sets, Federer’s upped his game to win the third, but Seppi saved an early break point in the fourth and stood firm with the former No. 1 until he pulled the breaker to earn his biggest career win.
Federer tossed in nine double faults, looked slow on his feet and routinely shanked groundstrokes.
Federer has made the Australian Open semifinals 11 straight years, and he had just won the Brisbane title. At 33, his last Grand Slam title remains the 2012. His last hardcourt Slam came in Melbourne five years ago and he’s failed to reach the quarters at four of his last seven Slams.
The loss also keeps Novak Djokovic at the No. 1 ranking.
After a busy fall and off-season exo circuit, Federer will take a month-plus break from tennis before returning in late February in his second home of Dubai.
Here’s what Federer said in his post-match press conference:
Q. You didn’t look quite comfortable out there today, especially the first two sets. Was something special going on or just a bad day?
ROGER FEDERER: Just a bad day, yeah. I mean, I wish I could have played better, but clearly it was tough losing the first two, you know. Had chances to get back into it. I let it slip, I mean, both times in some ways. I guess I won the wrong points out there today. I knew how important that second set tiebreaker was, so clearly that hurt, losing that one. The end wasn’t pretty, you know. It wasn’t easy to play with the shadow. But it was the same for both of us. Just a disappointing loss, you know.
Q. Did you have a chance to make a volley on the very final point?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, I guess maybe if he hits it normally, maybe yes. But the way he hits it you think, This can’t possibly land in. You kind of go and you’re there and 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, so… Because he was also running into the sun, so I have to cover cross-court just in case. That’s where everybody goes. I don’t know. Ask him how he felt hitting it. It’s clearly a big blow because I actually hit my forehand pretty good.
Q. You never lost a set with him. Was it surprising the way he played? Do you think Seppi played his best ever?
ROGER FEDERER: Against me, you mean?
ROGER FEDERER: Possibly so. We had some good matches in the past. 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. And I felt for some reason yesterday and this morning it was not going to be very simple today. Even in practice I still felt the same way. I was just hoping it was one of those feelings you sometimes have and it’s totally not true and you just come out and you play a routine match. Yeah, it was a mistake. And I know the strength of Seppi, especially after he beat Chardy, who I know can play very well. I was aware of the test and was well-prepared. Just somehow couldn’t play my best tennis today. It was definitely partially because of Andreas playing very well.
Q. What was your feeling in practice this morning?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know, maybe rhythm was missing. But I feel like that very often and then, you know, I come out and play a good match. Sometimes you feel too good and then you play a horrible match. I mean, the practice to me doesn’t mean a thing anyways. But I was aware that this could be a tough match, so I wasn’t mistaken this time around.
Q. What do you think let you down the most? Was it your serving or missing those breakpoints?
ROGER FEDERER: I guess it was just an overall feeling I had today out on the court that I couldn’t, you know, really get the whole game flowing. You know, was it backhand? Was it forehand? Was it serve? It was a bit of everything. At the same time, I think I got broken in the last couple of sets. The second set also I only got broken once. I was hanging in there. Gee, what did I have, 4-1 in the breaker, 3-1 in the breaker? I don’t remember what it was. I hit a pretty good serve that I shouldn’t — downwind I should never lose that point. So it wasn’t all bad. It’s just when it counted the most somehow it just ended up going his way. I think that was because overall I wasn’t feeling it quite as well. I had to play it a little bit passively at times when normally I would play aggressive. You know, it was just a tough match for me.
Q. When you come to reflect, do you think you made it back on top after a very grueling, very emotional Davis Cup very late in the year? Maybe this event came in a bit of a rush.
ROGER FEDERER: Not really. I was actually very happy that it was the way it went, because it allowed me to stay within the rhythm and take the break after the Australian Open. I was playing very well in practice. I was playing very well in Brisbane. I was playing great in the practice leading into the tournament. So I don’t want to say that I peaked too early, but I definitely was hitting the ball very well. I still believe I’d still be in the tournament, that I’d still have a chance to go very deep. Like I said at the very beginning of the tournament, I truly believe that. But then again, margins are small, and sometimes these things tend to happen. Clearly I’ll have a look at it, but I don’t think I did anything wrong honestly. I wanted to go to India. I wanted to go back to Switzerland for Christmas. I practiced as hard as I possibly could. Can’t do more than that. Sure, the year ended late, but one week later than normal. At the end of the day, honestly I’m confident that what I did was the right thing.
Q. The first set you played versus Bolelli, there was this little sign of alarm. You were pushed by the forehand of Bolelli a lot, and maybe today the whole match instead of just one set or not?
ROGER FEDERER: Maybe. I don’t know. I think I gave a lot of explanation. I wish I could have won the first set; then things would have been different. But I definitely wanted to go into the match, play aggressive, play the right way, play on my terms, but it was just hard to do. For some reason I struggled. Like I explained, it had things to do with Andreas’ game and with my game as well. You put those things together, all of a sudden you’re playing a match you don’t want to play. The rallies are going in a way you don’t like it. Then when I maybe needed my serve the most, it wasn’t quite there, because my baseline game wasn’t there either. It went in phases. But at least I was able to iron out things a bit and able to play much more solid at the back end of the match. But it just broke me to lose that second set. And actually the fourth, I should win it, too. Just a brutal couple of sets to lose there.
Q. Were you surprised you were playing in the morning session? Maybe the conditions might be different.
ROGER FEDERER: Who knows. I mean, it’s totally no excuse. How many times have I played night session, day session, night session, day session or day session, night session? Who cares. I think he did well. I struggled today and he took advantage of it really. I wish I believed maybe if we played at night I would have been more comfortable, but at this point who cares, right? I mean, like I’m on the plane and he’s not, so…
Q. What are you going to do next?
ROGER FEDERER: Rest, then get ready for practice really.
Q. Do you have any tournaments planned for February?
ROGER FEDERER: Dubai is my next one.
Q. Do you feel like you’re having these off days, do you feel they’re coming more often in the last couple of years?
ROGER FEDERER: Oh, no. This is a feeling I’ve had for 15 years. To me I don’t read anything into that. It’s just not the best feeling to have. It’s not like I’m playing shocking or I’m feeling shocking. It’s like one of those things you look back and maybe, Yeah, I didn’t feel so good. But if you win, you never even question it. If I were you, I wouldn’t read very much into that.
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