MELBOURNE: A stunned Roger Federer was dumped out of the Australian Open yesterday in his worst showing since 2001 as Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova bounced back to stay in the title hunt.
In the tournament’s biggest upset, the Swiss world number two had no answer to Italian Andreas Seppi, who he had conquered in their past 10 meetings.
“Just a bad day. I wish I could have played better but clearly it was tough losing the first two sets,” said Federer after crashing out in the third round 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5). “I had chances to get back into it but let it slip. It’s a disappointing loss.”
The defeat was the 17-time Grand Slam winner’s earliest exit in Melbourne in 14 years and aside from his second round Wimbledon flop in 2013, was the Swiss legend’s worst performance at a major in more than a decade.
Federer was chasing his fifth Australian Open crown, but has now not won a Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
In contrast, Nadal was back to his best against Israel’s Dudi Sela, comfortably winning 6-1, 6-0, 7-5 after being pushed to the brink in a five-set epic in the second round when he suffered dizzy spells and cramps.
“The other night was one of the toughest times I have spent on the court and my body wasn’t very well and I felt very lucky to get through,” said Nadal.
Sharapova was also on fire, blitzing past Zarina Diyaz of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-1 to erase memories of her big scare in the second round when she had to save two match points.
Murray marches on, so does Bouchard
Murray was also in form, easily beating Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-1, 7-5 and is yet to be seriously tested at Melbourne Park. He will next meet Bulgarian 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who struggled against 2006 Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis with the fired-up Cypriot pushing him to five gruelling sets.
Rising star Bouchard also progressed, but made heavy work of downing France’s Caroline Garcia, taking 56 minutes to get through the first set before moving up a gear to win 7-5, 6-0.
Third seed Simona Halep limped through against American world number 258 Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 7-5 and will next meet Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer.
Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych was a more convincing winner, powering past Serb Viktor Troicki while women’s 10th seed Ekaterina Makarova also went through.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2015.