Friday, January 23, 2015
Federer never looked like he was playing his best tennis throughout the match, although he pulled together a few strong points at a time, his game never gelled and he lost 6-4 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(5).
Federer was gracious in defeat, praising his opponent's play and chalking up his disappointing result to a "bad day" at the office. Seppi had never beaten Federer in 10 previous meetings and had in fact, only won one set in all those meetings. The loss was reminiscent of what happened to Federer when he lost to Tommy Robredo for the first time in the Fourth Round of the 2013 U.S. Open (a match I saw in person from the front row).
There were signs things were not going well for the 17-time champion in Melbourne. In the round before, Federer lost the first set easily to Simone Bollelli of Italy but there he managed to right the ship more quickly and won the next three sets for a 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 win. That did not happen against the more determined and steadier Seppi, who siezed his opportunities and played well throughout.
The difference between Federer's loss to Robredo and his loss to Seppi yesterday was that the Robredo loss came after a string of disappointments in the majors that year while this loss is much more surprising since it happened at the beginning of a year following a year when Federer played well and reached a major final (2014 Wimbledon). Federer did have a longer season than usual (winning the most matches on tour and the 2014 Davis Cup) and a busier off-season but this surprising loss could be an indication that the upside of the 33-year-old's career is not as high as some of us more ardent fans (like myself) had hoped. Can he really win another major? Andy Murray says yes. Interesting, because one of the primary beneficiaries of Federer's absence, is Murray, who would have been scheduled to meet him in the quarterfinals (followed by Nadal in the semifinal and Djokovic in the final).