By Jane Voigt
The Australian Open is an odd Grand Slam.
It’s the first major of the year.
It’s located far far away from, well, everything. It’s summer Down Under when everything above the equator freezes and people walk like robots under grey domed skies.
But do these observations explain how the draw looks, as week one comes to a close? Not completely.
But, this does. “It’s sport, Rafael Nadal (No. 3) said, after hearing of Roger Federer’s loss to Andreas Seppi Friday. “Bad for Roger. Good for Seppi.”
Leave it Nadal to pinpoint what most cannot … someone loses. Today, Federer’s exit stirred the draw one more time in a week that witnessed 8 women’s seeds fall in one day, and more than half the men’s seeds sent home before third-round matches were completed.
Federer had a premonition yesterday about his match with Seppi. “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 totally not true.”
A far number of Federer’s assets took a vacation, during the upset. He serve went off when he needed it; and, he couldn’t find his rhythm. “My baseline game wasn’t there either,” he said. “It went in phases.” He earned 55 unforced errors for the match and scored 9 double faults.
Seppi had never beaten Roger in their ten previous matches. Roger had never lost at the Australian Open before the semifinals in ten years.
As much as we look for answers to why Federer, winner of four Australian Open titles, didn’t perform his best, the conclusion is straightforward, as Nadal pointed out. Federer wobbled and Seppi took advantage. Players win by points. The margins are narrow.
Fans sit on the edges of their seats when it comes to Federer, one of the truly international celebrities loved by millions. And we can’t brush aside his age; he is 33. So is the loss a sign?
“Roger knows more than anyone how difficult these competitions are to win,” Andy Murray said, after his 3-set dismissal of Joao Sousa, Tennis.com reported. “When he plays at his peak, he makes it look extremely easy, but it’s not. If he had an off day today, then you can easily lose against guys that are in the Top 100 in the world. They’re all very, very good players. He’s definitely still got chances to win Grand Slams.”
If Federer was haunted by premonitions, Seppi was in a meditative state.
“I was pretty calm from the beginning,” Seppi told the press. “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.”
Federer plays Dubai next. It begins February 23.
What Else About the First Four Days In Melbourne?
Feliciano Lopez (No. 12) became the luckiest man on Earth or at least in tennis, as he slipped past American Wildcard Denis Kudla in round one. Kudla was up 6-5 in the fifth set and had 3 match points when Lopez dazzled crowds, winning 10-8. Looking drained against Adrain Mannarino in his next round, Lopez lost the first two sets, won the third in a tiebreak, went up 4-0 in the fourth when his opponent retired from heat exhaustion. Lopez is scheduled to play Jerzy Janowicz on Friday. They are second up on Margaret Court Arena. Will luck be on his side?
Two of Australia’s hopes have made the second week, the entryway to success in Grand Slams. They are Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios.
Tomic may be known more for his antics off court — fast cars, raucous parties, a father that punched out a hitting partner — than for his on-court slam record. This is his 7th Australian Open and he’s equaled his best performance, by reaching the round of 16. Ranked 66 in the world, Tomic has an easy style and keen court sense. Wracked by injuries and assertions of tanking, this talent has everything to gain for himself and Australia. He plays Tomas Berdych (No. 7) next. The Czech has not dropped a set and made the semifinal last year.
Nineteen-year-old Kyrgios is a flamboyant player and loves the big stage. He defeated Rafael Nadal in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, staking his claim for stardom. He has a huge serve and a fierce forehand, preferring to go for broke rather than play percentages. A crowd favorite, Kyrgios can gain ground from home-town support. It gets loud when Nick hits the court. Next up for him … Andreas Seppi.