A fourth round appearance was in the cards for Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open. He earned it by holding tight against a tough adversary winning 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6) against Andreas Seppi on Margaret Court Arena Friday night.
The series between the two powerhouses has been lopsided but not without dramatic moments. The Italian found himself face to face with Djokovic for the 12th time hoping that he could bring back the battle from four years back. Seppi pushed the number one ranked player in the world to a five set marathon before losing steam in the fifth losing 6-3.
He hasn’t had much luck defeating him but in their third round meeting at the U.S. Open, the Italian did extend the last two sets meaning that he was figuring out a strategy to pull off the biggest upset ever.
Things didn’t start good for Seppi as he watched Djokovic play his dominating game through the first five nearly going for the sweep. Seppi made it happen just in the nick of time but his efforts were short-term. The Serb pulled off his second love service to sweep the opening set in 25 minutes.
The Italian got a second chance at redemption to show the best player in the world the skills he really has. After falling behind, Seppi pushed back to force a brief fight on deuce to win the game on Djokovic’s error on the forehand. He would come back with a double game point on serve but fall the very next game with an error on the backhand.
Each player caused himself to lose games leading to a tradeoff through ten to send things into extra frames. Seppi served the ball up to Djokovic who jumped on the break to take the lead at 6-5. The Italian got back into a tie in the 12th but ultimately lost control on deuce to fall two sets to none. While he lasted twice as long in the second than he did in the first, Seppi came to the realization that his Aussie Open fate was hanging in the balance.
He came out swinging in the third set taking the first game, but suddenly found himself in another one of Djokovic’s traps. The Serb took the very next game to send things into a tug of war that would have a winner by the set’s end. He found himself at 5-4 for the second time with a chance to win the set but he couldn’t break ahead of Djokovic’s lead in the tenth where he penned out a victory landing a service winner forcing the set onward.
Seppi once again had the set with in reach but the nerves got to him causing to err at the wrong time that gave Djokovic the chance to win it all in a tiebreaker. The Serb lost the opening point to his opponent but came back firing an ace to level up. He took a 3-1 lead just as the Italian struck back.
The Serb put a buffer between him and Seppi until the point of winning the match could be reached. He got into a tie at four but immediately jumped ahead before finding himself in another tie at six points each. Djokovic caused Seppi to commit a pair of errors that gave him the match win in 2 hours and 20 minutes.
“So I think that I started very well,” said Djokovic. “A set and then a couple of break points early in the second. Didn’t use that. He started serving well. I backed up half a step back. He started playing more aggressive tennis. Not as many unforced errors. I must be pleased with a straight-set win because both sets, especially the third, could have gone a different way.”
With that no longer a thought, the world ranked number one player would go into Sunday’s round of 16 match facing Gilles Simon of France.