Italian Andreas Seppi advanced to his first Australian Open fourth round appearance with a five-set victory over big-serving Croatian Marin Cilic in five tough sets on Saturday.
The No. 21 seed won 6-7(2) 6-3 2-6 6-4 6-2 in three hours and 38 minutes on Show Court 2.
It is fair to say Italian women have dominated the tennis headlines in recent years. Flavia Pennetta became their first top 10 ranked singles player and also got to No. 1 in the doubles rankings, Francesca Schiavone became the country’s first grand slam champion at the 2010 French Open while Sara Errani, 2012 French Open finalist, and doubles partner Roberta Vinci, the current doubles world No. 1, both had stellar 2012 seasons.
But with Pennetta currently injured and the other three Italian women already eliminated from the 2013 Australian Open singles competition, now is Seppi’s chance to shine.
The 28 year-old, currently ranked 23, is doing just that, equalling his career-best grand slam performance with the victory over Cilic, an Australian Open semi-finalist in 2010.
“It’s the first time I’ve passed the second round here also in Australia, so it is very important for me,” Seppi said.
“One of my goals was to go better in the slams.”
Seppi got the early break in the match and served for the set at 5-4, but was broken. It went to a tiebreak, which Cilic won 7-2, helped by four unforced errors from the Italian.
Cilic’s serve wasn’t firing yet, only making 38 per cent of his first serves, but he was on top in the baseline rallies. He broke in the opening game of the second set, only for Seppi to immediately break back and win the next four games to race to a 4-1 lead.
This time Seppi did not let his lead slip, serving it out 6-3 in 34 minutes.
Cilic turned his form around in the third set, hitting10 winners and just four unforced errors to take it 6-2 in 37 minutes.
The Italian was not giving up without a fight, breaking Cilic in the first game of the fourth set. He surrendered the advantage in the next game though, with Cilic breaking straight back.
Games continued on serve until the ninth game, when Seppi snared the pivotal break. He served out the set to love in the next game, taking it 6-4 in 49 minutes.
Seppi hit 12 winners to seven for the set, as Cilic’s unforced error count for the set jumped to 12.
It was Cilic who struck first in the final set, breaking Seppi’s first service game to snare a 2-0 lead. Seppi responded by reeling off six straight games to win the match, taking the set 6-2 in 39 minutes.
Seppi now faces unseeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who is also into his first Australian Open fourth round, for a quarter-final berth. Chardy upset No. 6 seed Juan Martin del Potro in five sets in the third round.