The biggest day five casualty was Roger Federer, who was knocked out by Italian world no.46 Andreas Seppi in four sets. The stunned crowd at the Rod Laver arena suffered with Federer since it was one match the Swiss could have won, whatever else the score-line conveys. Of the four sets that the match lasted, two went to the tie breaks and in the first; Federer lost a break-back opportunity. Despite an inordinately large number of unforced errors, the big man didn’t play all that bad. But the credit must go to Seppi, who stayed superbly calm while demolishing a player, who has acquired a unique distinction of being a crowd favorite all over the world. Incidentally, for the first time in eight years, the Australian Open semifinals will be played, when final four will not have Roger Federer. Moreover, in the last 14 years it has never happened that Federer could not go to the fourth round of the year’s first Grand Slam. Among other news on day five, Rafael Nadal played like the Rafa we know and advanced to the fourth round without much trouble. Also advancing further were; Andy Murray, Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, Tomas Berdych, Maria Sharapova, Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska. Bulgarian star Grigor Dimitrov also went to the fourth round but not before an inspired Marcos Baghdatis took the match to five sets.
For long after the match was over at Rod Laver Arena, Federer’s loss to Andreas Seppi remained a dominant subject of debate. Seppi had lost to the Swiss in their last 10 meetings and his best performance against the world no.2 was taking a set from him at Doha three years ago. Therefore, Seppi took to court against Federer with nothing more to lose. The first set was going on serves until 4-4, when Federer committed untimely unforced errors and was down 0-40 on his serve in the ninth game. Seppi took his chance immediately and led 5-4 with his serve to follow. The alarmed Federer pushed Seppi in the tenth game and created two break-back points. But the Italian held his nerve and went one-set up. Federer looked anxious but he knew how to come back. As the second set entered the tie-break, Federer coasted to a 5-point lead. The big man probably lost the match at this juncture as he allowed the Italian a lot of leeway. A series of unforced errors from Federer meant Seppi reeling off 6 points on the trot and taking the second set as well. The Swiss got back his game for a while and looked good in reducing the deficit on the sets to 2-1 by taking the third set 6-4. Now was the crunch for both players as they kept holding their serves in the fourth set. Federer progressed from 40-0 to 5-4 in the ninth game but Seppi held his serve as well to make it 5-5. The 11th game went to deuce but Federer held on at 6-5. But Seppi forced the tie-break regardless. Just as in the second set, Federer stormed to an early lead and at 5-4, he had two points to come on his own serve. It wasn’t difficult for the Swiss but probably the day didn’t belong to him. Yet again, the Italian kept his cool and held a match point by producing two brilliant strokes. The serene looking Seppi engaged the Swiss in a longish rally and then as Federer rushed to the net, Seppi passed him. That was the end of Roger Federer at Australian Open 2015.
With news of Federer’s defeat buzzing around, Rafael Nadal played against 29-year old Israeli Dudi Sela in his third round match. The well-rested Spaniard put his past performance on the back-burner and defeated Sela, who watched as shots flew by him on either side. Nadal romped home with a 6-1, 6-0, 7-5 win. Friday’s best performance came from Scotsman Andy Murray, who is yet to drop a set at Melbourne this year. Murray faced Portuguese Joao Sousa and continued with his powerful game even as Sousa looked at the wrong place against him. In the end, Murray coasted to an easy 6-1, 6-1, 7-5 victory. The Briton next faces Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in fourth round. Dimitrov, on his part, played a sketchy match against Marcos Baghdatis and needlessly allowed the Cypriot to stretch him to five sets. Dimitrov finally came through 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 but he will have to do much better against Murray.
Like Nadal, Maria Sharapova was also on the verge of a second-round exit on Wednesday. On Friday, however, she crushed Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas 6-1 6-1 to enter the round-of-16 for the ninth time in 12 visits to Melbourne. Watching the business-like Sharapova play at the Rod Laver arena showed her focus to taking a sixth Grand Slam title.
There were huge cheers for Nick Kyrgios at Margaret Court Arena, where the Australian teenager faced Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri. Kyrgios played powerfully in ousting Jaziri 6-3, 7-6, 6-1 and setting a fourth round clash with Andreas Seppi, the Italian, who became famous after causing the biggest upset of this year’s Australian Open. Other Australian man, who advanced to the fourth round, was Bernard Tomic, who defeated his compatriot Sam Groth 6-4, 7-6, 6-3.
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is immensely popular in Australia and not just for her ever-improving tennis. She is a stunningly beautiful girl, who could also have been a film-star if she was not playing tennis. On Friday, she moved one step closer to the title with a 7-5, 6-0 win over Caroline Garcia of France. Garcia is no mean player and that is another reason for Bouchard to feel confident.