23/Jan/2015 // 229 Viewers
MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer shouted at himself in all three languages he speaks on Friday, trying to rouse a response from whatever part of him houses his tennis greatness.
“Come on!” he yelled in English. “Chum jetze!” he shouted in Swiss German. “Allez!” he tried in French.
But in the end, it was an Italian who had the final word, with the 46th-ranked Andreas Seppi stunning the second-seeded Federer 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(5) in the third round Friday afternoon at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
Forty minutes after the match, Federer gave a news conference, offering answers in a similar mix of English, Swiss German and French.
“Just a bad day,” he began. “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.”
It was the 33-year-old Federer’s first loss in the third round or earlier at the Australian Open since 2001, and it ended a streak of 11 consecutive runs to the semifinals or better. Seppi had never beaten Federer in their 10 previous meetings, nor had he ever beaten a Top 10 player at a Grand Slam event.
Federer, who started the year at 6-0 after winning the warm-up tournament in Brisbane, Australia, has not won a major title since claiming his 17th at Wimbledon in 2012. This was his earliest exit at a Grand Slam event since Wimbledon in 2013, when he lost to Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round.
“I was playing very well in Brisbane, I was playing great in the practice leading into the tournament,” Federer said on Friday. “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.”
Federer struggled with consistency throughout the match and especially in the first two sets, when his unforced errors exceeded Seppi’s, 32 to 19. By the end of the match, he had hit 55 unforced errors to Seppi’s 40.
Still unsteady and shouty, Federer earned a lucky break from the net with Seppi serving for a two-set lead at 5-4 in the second, when his forehand on the 16th shot of a grueling break point rally clipped the net and fell just over onto the Seppi side, leveling the set at 5-5.
But in the ensuing tiebreaker, Federer was unable to keep his 5-3 lead, losing the final four points to give Seppi the set, and a lead that would prove insurmountable.
“I wish I could have won the first set; then things would have been different,” Federer said. “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’s 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.
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“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.”
After narrowing his deficit by winning the third set, Federer appeared on his way to forcing a deciding set as darkness covered half the court. He initially led 3-1 in the fourth tiebreaker, but lost that edge on a double fault. He earned the advantage back with a zipping backhand passing shot that gave him a 5-4 lead, but with a chance to then serve out the tiebreaker he flipped a backhand wide to level it.
A forehand winner by Seppi on the next point gave the 30-year-old Italian his first match point, and he converted it with a whipped forehand passing shot winner that curled past Federer as he watched it fall just inside the court.
“The way he hits it, you think: This can’t possibly land in,” Federer recalled. “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.”
Until that last moment, it would have been fair for observers to doubt Seppi’s ability to complete the upset. At the 2012 French Open, Seppi held a similar 6-4, 7-6(5) lead over the top-seeded Novak Djokovic before capitulating in a five-set loss.
In a quirk of the tennis scoring system, Federer won one more point total than Seppi, 145 to 144.
“I guess I won the wrong points out there today,” he said.