By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Andreas Seppi's stunning upset of Roger Federer at the Australian Open on Friday was a three-hour affair but the shot that ended the Swiss's 11-year run to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park will be replayed for years to come.
Serving at 6-5 on his first match point of a nerve-jangling fourth set tiebreaker, the 46th-ranked Italian had to scramble hard across court as Federer rushed to the net with a forehand approach shot that burned down the line.
Seppi stuck his racquet out in pure desperation and as he hurtled over the tramlines with inertia, the lofted shot sailed down the line past Federer, who moved across but did not take a swing at the ball.
Whether it was a leave or had Federer beaten cold, the Swiss master himself was unsure, but the ball ultimately dropped on the baseline and 15,000 spectators inside a packed Rod Laver Arena roared as 30-year-old Seppi sealed the match 6-4 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(5) and toasted the finest win of his three-title career.
"I guess maybe if he hits it normally, maybe yes," Federer said when asked if he had a shot at the volley.
"But the way he hits it you think, 'this can't possibly land in'. You kind of go and you're there and you're like, 'No, I'm going to let it go'. As you're telling yourself that, you look behind you and you already know it's done.
"Because he was also running into the sun, so I have to cover cross-court just in case. That's where everybody goes. I don't know. Ask him how he felt hitting it. It's clearly a big blow because I actually hit my forehand pretty good."
For Seppi, it was a "strange shot".
"At the beginning I thought I couldn't even reach the ball. Then, yeah, when I hit it, I didn't see it going there. I just saw when it bounced in. Was, yeah, for sure one of the important shots of my life."
Seppi ended his perfect 10-match losing record to Federer and an improbable 23-match losing streak to top-10 opposition.
The 17-times grand slam champion was never at his best against Seppi but was magnanimous in defeat.
"I can't remember well. But I think he said, 'unbelievable last point. Congratulations'. Something like that," said Seppi.
He will bid for his first quarter-final at a major against young Australian Nick Kyrgios, who beat Malek Jaziri in straight sets 6-3 7-6(6) 6-1.
"Against Roger, you know, I never went close," Seppi added.
"I never had the chance. To have this win in my career, it's for sure something big, yeah."
(Editing by John O'Brien)