Seppi topples Kyrgios in five-set thriller
Same court, same opponent, same rollercoaster ride – different result. Two years on from his dramatic five-set defeat at the hands of Nick Kyrgios, Andreas Seppi turned the tables.
Same court, same opponent, same rollercoaster ride – different result. Two years on from his dramatic five-set defeat at the hands of Nick Kyrgios, Andreas Seppi turned the tables on the No.14 seed, saving a match point after battling back from two sets down to prevail 1-6 6-7(1) 6-4 6-2 10-8 on Wednesday night.
“Maybe it was meant to be,” said Seppi, who will face Belgium’s Steve Darcis in the third round. “I was two sets to love down and I said, last time I was two sets to love up, so let’s try to do the same to him.”
Seppi held steady after recovering from a slow start, while across the net Kyrgios veered from brilliance and bombast to distracted self-destruction over the first four sets. He picked up a point penalty for his behaviour, and while both men hit more than 50 winners during the three-hour, eight-minute contest, it was Kyrgios’s 68 unforced errors – almost double Seppi’s 36 – that proved to be his undoing.
The parallels with their 2015 meeting at Melbourne Park were impossible to ignore. Back then, the Italian had stunned Roger Federer in the third round before facing the 19-year-old firebrand, only to see a two-set lead evaporate and a match point come and go at Hisense Arena.
That day, Kyrgios dragged himself and the crowd to a spellbinding five-set victory. Then, it was 8-6 in the fifth; this time the decider lasted 18 games after Kyrgios broke back at 6-5 to keep the match alive, before Seppi saved a match point at 8-7.
Kyrgios had dropped just five games against Gastao Elias in the first round and picked up where he left off two nights later, opening the match with an ace and a deft drop volley as he first held to love before breaking to love. With just 28 minutes gone, the Australian No.1 was a set to the good.
Kyrgios opened the second set with another break but Seppi responded instantly, raising his game and extending the rallies. Rather than try to hit his way out of trouble, Kyrgios hunkered down and kept his cool, serving his way out of danger when Seppi came within two points of the set 15-30 at 4-5. But having earned the tiebreak, Seppi undid all his hard work with an error-strewn performance.
Rather than the second-set win spurring Kyrgios to better things in the third, the 21-year-old became tetchy as he struggled with his movement, and Seppi took full advantage. The third set soon went the way of the Italian, the fourth sooner still, and the match was suddenly a one-set shootout.
Kyrgios redoubled his efforts but Seppi was not to be shaken, even after the Australian raised the roof with an audacious tweener en route to a break back when Seppi first served for the match.
“Bad memories came up,” Seppi admitted, fearing his chance had gone. “He played a few good points, especially the first one – the tweener, I didn’t expect that.”
Nevertheless, Seppi stuck to his task, dealing with Kyrgios’s changes of pace and direction even as the clock passed three hours. When Kyrgios went for too much with a second serve on break point at 8-8, the 33-year-old got a second shot at serving out a dramatic victory. This time, he would not be denied.