MELBOURNE: Swiss legend Roger Federer said there was nothing to read into his earliest exit from the Australian Open in 14 years after he was dumped out by Italian Andreas Seppi Friday.
The 46th-ranked Seppi mastered Federer for the first time in 11 meetings, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5) in almost three hours, to reach the fourth round for only the fourth time at the slams.
The Italian giantkiller will now face either Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios or Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri.
It was the Swiss 17-time Grand Slam champion’s earliest exit from the Australian Open since 2001, while he was ousted in the second round at Wimbledon in 2013.
Federer was chasing his fifth Australian Open crown, but has now not won a major title since Wimbledon in 2012.
He insisted there was nothing to take out of his early departure after reaching the semi-final stage for 11 consecutive years in Melbourne.
“To me I don’t read anything into that (the loss). It’s just not the best feeling to have,” the 33-year-old said.
“It’s not like I’m playing shocking or I’m feeling shocking. If I were you, I wouldn’t read very much into that.”
It was a stunning win for Seppi, who had only taken one set off Federer in their previous 10 encounters.
But he had the Swiss great off balance on Rod Laver Arena, where the big stadium crowd was fully behind Federer, urging him to fight his way back.
“I guess it was just an overall feeling I had today out on the court that I couldn’t really get the whole game flowing,” Federer admitted.
“It’s just when it counted the most somehow it just ended up going his way. I think that was because overall I wasn’t feeling it quite as well.
“I had to play it a little bit passively at times when normally I would play aggressive, it was just a tough match for me.”
Federer said he was prepared for a hard slog against Seppi, despite his run of results against him over the last eight years.
“I know the strength of Seppi. I was aware of the test and was well prepared. Just somehow couldn’t play my best tennis today. It was definitely partially because of Andreas playing very well,” he said.
With Federer’s exit the bottom half of the men’s draw has opened up with three-time runner-up Andy Murray needing to get past Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round.
Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal also still needs to prove he has overcome stomach cramps and dizzy spells which had him struggling against American qualifier Tim Smyczek over five sets in the second round.
Composed Seppi kept the Swiss star under pressure throughout the match and broke him three times, winning with a passing backhand with Federer stranded at the net.
Seppi hit 50 winners, while Federer made a total of 55 errors.
“To beat Roger for the first time, especially in a Grand Slam, best-of-five, is a special moment for me,” said Seppi.
“I just went on the court to enjoy the match and to play my best tennis, but especially after the first set I started to believe that I can do more.
“You don’t play every day on centre court, full stadium in a Grand Slam against Roger.
“I was pretty calm from the beginning and in the important moments.”