When Andreas Seppi of Italy stepped out on the Rod Laver arena today he must have presumably done some packing and have gotten the flight tickets for back home. Justly so. The odds were overwhelming. He was to face Roger Federer in the third round at the Australian open. Yeah, the usual adjectives (justifyingly though) - greatest, 17 time champion, crowd favourite, 4 time winner at AO, and blah blah. Add to that fact that Seppi has managed just one set in their previous ten meetings and Federer hasn't bowed out of Australia before semis for last 11 years. Geez!! Even Seppi himself wouldn't have put his own money on himself, only to now wonder what if he had.
Andreas Seppi went for it. You lose so much to one man you really lose something in your mind as well. It's either the belief to ever win or the fear to lose. Seppi went hard for his shots. He was solid on serve. When he took the first set, not many wondered any result different from the odds. Federer will pick up, Seppi will drop is the usual chatter. Federer never picked, Seppi never dropped. When Federer picked, Seppi maintained the pressure. At 5-3 in the second set tiebreak, the Italian unleashed himself to turn it around. At 2 sets to love, Federer was pinned down. Yet he had survived this 9 times before in his illustrious career. Federer did win the third, but the legs seem to hold him back in the fourth. At 33 years of age it isn't the same.
Shanking forehands and backhands has a great deal to do with positioning and Federer was just a bit short in that area. Federer clearly had a bad day in office. His serve which had bailed him on several occasions had 9 double faults today. When he had the opportunities he failed to produced the goods and take advantage. Equal credit to Andreas Seppi though for keep throwing punches at the Swiss giant. The last three points of the match in the fourth set tie break were a thing of enormous belief that Seppi was playing with. Federer had the fourth set on his racket to force a decider when Seppi took three to wrap it up.
The scoreline read 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 for the winner. Federer must be wondering he only needed those two breakers and he would be doing the winners press conference. So many times he has turned around matches like these. Seppi can feel the same. Yet, today is different. The winner tonight is from the other side of the Alps and deservedly so. When Federer patted Seppi on the back at the net, he knew the guy had to topple the baggage of last 10 losses to make it happen. Who knows about mental fortitude better than a 17 time champion.
For winning is a matter of trying, no matter the losses incurred. For putting oneself in a position to try an 11th time is a matter of courage and then who knows, you may defy the odds. For odds are nothing but a piece of history and on a today of fresh fight they can be yours to defy.