In-form Italian Andreas Seppi brought a shocking end to No. 2 seed Roger Federer’s Australian Open campaign on Friday, ousting the Swiss 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(5) in a third-round stunner.
“Just a bad day,” said Federer, who for the first time in 14 years will not see the fourth round in Melbourne. “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.”
Federer’s 57 winners were offset by 55 unforced errors. Seppi, not known for his power game, seemingly harnessed groundstroke weapons to spare, especially early on against the Swiss, striking 50 overall winners.
“To beat Roger first time, especially in a Grand Slam, best of five, is a special moment for me,” said Seppi, who was 0-10 versus Federer entering the match. “I was pretty calm, I have to say, from the beginning. Also in the important moments. Maybe it was the match where I felt more comfortable in my life, also with my emotions. I think that help me for sure in the end of the match a lot.”
Seppi’s further reward is a draw that opens up in the fourth round against unseeded Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who on Friday advanced after defeating Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-1.
World No. 3 Rafa Nadal rebounded to punish Israel’s Dudi “Where’s My Car?” Sela 6-1, 6-0, 7-5, setting up a fourth-round encounter with No. 14 Kevin “Mr.” Anderson, who topped No. 24 Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(6).
“I was still a little bit dizzy yesterday,” said Rafa after his marathon with American Tim Smyczek. “I think I lost lot of fluids the other night. But in general I was not very, very bad. Knowing that I going to play tonight, I know — I hope that I — I thought I going to be ready for tonight, no? Happy the way I was physically on court tonight. Obviously happy the way I played the first two sets. Then the third play with more mistakes, but all is part of the process that I am doing.”
A mouth-watering fourth-rounder will be No. 6 Andy Murray vs. No. 10 Grigor “Baby Fed” Dimitrov, after Murray pummeled Portugal’s Joao “Phillips” Sousa 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, and the Bulgarian outlasted veteran Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“It will be a tough match, obviously,” Murray said of Dimitrov. “He’s played well in the Slams the last year or so. He’s obviously a talented player. He’s one of the young guys trying to make a breakthrough, so he’ll be motivated.”
Aussie un-favored son Bernie Tomic beat Aussie compatriot Sam Groth 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-3 on Friday, earning a meeting with newly-engaged No. 7 seed Tomas Berdych, who make workman-like Vegemite of Czech Viktor Troicki 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
“I didn’t play that good, but I won,” Tomic said, knowing he’ll need to step it up against the Czech Berdych. “He’s been many, many years, last three or four years, inside the Top 6. It’s not easy to play him. You have to serve well, use your opportunity when it comes. He hits the ball so fricking hard.”
On the women’s side play returned to the “wake me when it’s the quarterfinals” days on tour as the top players yawned their way into the fourth round.
No. 2 Maria Sharapova led the charge with a 6-1, 6-1 dismantling of No. 31 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, setting up a meeting with Chinese No. 21 seed Peng Shuai, who beat Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6(7), 6-3.
“She’s a bit of an untraditional player with two hands on both sides,” Sharapova said of Peng. “That’s a little tricky. But, yeah, I enjoy playing against her. She hits the ball quite flat as well, and deep. Just really have to be ready for those shots to always come back.”
Idolizing Monica Seles growing up, Sharapova, who at times has been known to hit left-handed forehands during a match when pressed, said she at one time tried her hand(s) at two-handed play off both sides.
“I did lefty, two hands on both sides,” she said. “I had a pretty good right-handed forehand as well. I did a little bit of both.”
No. 3 seed Simona Halep navigated a potentially tricky meeting with net-rushing American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 7-5, and will next face Belgian Yanina Wickmayer who upset No. 14 Sara Errani 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
No. 7 seed Eugenie Bouchard likewise broke down a potentially-tough opponent in French riser Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-0, next squaring off against Romanian Irina Begu, who was a 6-4, 6-4 winner against German teen Carina Witthoeft.
“She can hit the ball off the serve and both sides, so it was good for me to kind of see a bit of a faster pace,” Bouchard said of Garcia. “Play against a solid player who definitely we’ll have some battles in the future. She’s definitely going to be good…I was able to find my groove in the second [set].”
Silently making her way into the latter rounds is No. 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova, who always seems to enjoy going Down Under at the beginning of the year. On Friday the Russian defeated No. 22 Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-4, setting up an encounter with German Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges, a 7-6(6), 7-5 winner over Czech Lucie Hradecka.
Highlights to look for on Saturday in Oz include (1) Serena Williams vs. (26) Elina Svitolina, (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (31) Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco, (4) Petra Kvitova vs. Madison Keys, (18) Venus Williams vs. Camila Giorgi, (25) Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs. unseeded former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, (9) David Ferrer vs. (18) Gilles Simon in a match where we get exhausted just looking at those two names next to each other, an all-American meeting in Coco Vandeweghe vs. Madison Brengle, unseeded American Steve Johnson vs. (5) Kei Nishikori, Vasek “Popsicle” Pospisil vs. Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia-Lopez, and the serving contest of (19) John Isner vs. Gilles Muller.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
C’mon ESPN, do what’s good for tennis — when I switch to Tennis Channel during the Australian Open I expect to at least see them showing a live match on some shitty court instead of Kooyong re-runs — throw them a bone…Is Eka Makarova oddly hot or just plain hot? Is that sexist?…Alright Nike, enough of the nuclear green, our eyeballs want to puke…Aggie Radwanska says Martina Hingis is her model, but she hires Martina Navratilova as coach? Hmmm. At least Hingis could volley, might be something there…Serena Williams on Channel Seven Australia male commentator Ian Cohen asking players such as her and Genie Bouchard about their outfits and to “give us a twirl.”: “Well, a commentator asked me to twirl,” Serena said. “I wouldn’t ask Rafa (Nadal) or Roger (Federer) to twirl. Whether it’s sexist or not, I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t answer that.” — We know. We can answer that. It’s sexist. And kinda old-guy creepy. Dumb-ass Channel Seven interviewers. Bouchard said, “I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny.” Old sexist Aussie newspaper comment-writers also brushed it off: “Geez, is this really the biggest problem we have right now, flattering a pretty girl about her appearance?” — Yes pretty girl, dance like a monkey! Be flattered!…Billie Jean King is not amused…Russian 23-year-old pro Violetta Degtiareva, a self-styled next Anna Kournikova, reportedly died of a heart attack while training this month…From the Wall Street Journal: “In October, [Madison Brengle] had a cancerous growth removed from her leg and was unable to run for a month. She also discovered a mass in her jaw that doctors feared was a cancerous tumor. Luckily it is not, but she will need partial facial reconstruction sometime in the future to remove it.”…Bernie Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt are practicing together in Melbourne after some prickly past moments: “I asked him,” Tomic said. “He said yes. Very nice of him. It’s good to see he supports everyone. Not just myself, but Nick [Kyrgios]. He’s an amazing character, an amazing guy. I respect him so much.” But doesn’t everybody have some prickly past moments with Lleyton?
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