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The world no.1 and holder of the past three Grand Slams, Novak Djokovic, scored an amazing come from behind victory from 2-sets to love down against the 22nd seeded Italian Andreas Seppi to keep his quest for the 'Novak Slam' alive. For the majority of the match, it seemed as though the Serbian would suffer the same fate as of his WTA counterpart Victoria Azarenka, who was ousted from the French Open earlier in the day. However, the world no.1, despite not being at his best, managed to lift his game when it mattered clawing his way back into the match using his vast experience to scrape past his determined opponent.
Djokovic started off the first set in impeccable form, dictating play with pace and accuracy from both wings as he raced to a 3-0 lead, breaking the Italian in the 2nd game. However, Seppi, who is currently enjoying a career high rank of 25, was not to be denied as he brought the scores level thanks to some solid play. Errors started to flow from Djokovic's racquet with his usually reliable backhand also deserting him. Djokovic gifted another service game at 4-4 courtesy some loose forehands and compromised footwork, allowing the Italian to serve for the set. Novak tried to battle back in the following game but Seppi saved a break point en route to closing out the first set 6-4.
The second set was more closely contested as both players struggled to hold serve. Nevertheless, games went on serve till the 4th game of the set. In the 5th game, it was Seppi who upped the ante with some smart and aggressive tactics to breaking the Serbian with ease. The Italian consolidated the break with his best service game of the match, holding to love. The players continued to hold serve till the ninth game with the Italian earning an opportunuity to serve for a 2 sets to love lead.
However, nerves got the better of Seppi as he served for the set and provided a much-needed lifeline for Djokovic, which he gladly accepted. Djokovic got into another spot of bother in the next game as he went down a break point but a thumping ace wiped it out as he went on to hold to go ahead 6-5. Another protracted game ended in Seppi barely holding serve after 3 deuces to force a tie-break. The tie-breaker proved to be a neck-to-neck affair with both players comfortably holding their serves to bring the score to 6-5 giving the Italian a set point. Seppi managed to grab the opportunity with both hands as the world no.1 dumped a routine cross-court forehand into the net to go down two sets to love.
Djokovic responded strongly in the third set, breaking serve as Seppi still seemed to be coming to terms with the magnitude of what he had achieved thus far. Nevertheless, the Italian regained his composure in the next game, reciprocating the favor to bring the set back on serve. Service continued to remain a liability as the set saw another series of 3 consecutive breaks with the world no.1 getting the extra break. Finally, Djokovic was able to consolidate his break as he played a clinical game to bring the score to 5-3. Yet another break of serve handed the 3rd set to the Serbian but this time around, the break was more due to Djokovic's superior play as he grabbed the third set to reduce the deficit.
A rejuvenated Djokovic jumped into a 3-0 lead at the beginning of the fourth set as the Italian was letting the occasion get the better of him, making mistakes on crucial points. However, just like in the first set, Seppi managed to get the break back thanks to some crushing backhand winners. What followed was an intensely long and nerve-wracking game with both players giving it their all to win. Djokovic needed the game to regain the advantage whereas Seppi needed it to bring the scores level at 3-all. The latter happened as the elongated 19 point game was brought to an end with a fine serve from the Italian. Nevertheless, the Serbian continued to cruise through his service games losing only a few points in the process. Seppi meanwhile was barely hanging on to his service games, but managed to stay on serve. At 5-6 with Seppi serving to stay in the set, the world no.1 raised his level a couple of notches to pocket the fourth set 7-5, bringing the match back to level terms.
Serving first in the decider, coupled with a surge of momentum from winning the last two sets, firmly put Djokovic in the driver's seat as the world no.1 continued to hold his serve with ease. Seppi, who continued to be under pressure on his serve, finally succumbed to it, gifting a break to Djokovic thanks to a double fault and three unforced errors in the 6th game. Unlike the previous sets, the world no.1 did not let the initial advantage slip by this time around by holding his serve the rest of the way to, finally, complete a dramatic and remarkable comeback. He finished off proceedings with a forehand volley winner to book his place in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic had this to say about his incredible win in the post match press conference, "He (Seppi) was a better player for first two sets, definitely. I was very fortunate to come through to this match. I was fighting. When I was two sets down, I believed I could win the match, and I think, you know, that's the only positive I can really pick up from today's match."
Seppi would be mightily disappointed that he did not get the all-important 'W' next to his name after holding a massive 2 sets to love lead. Meanwhile, the world no.1 grabbed a confidence-boosting victory from the jaws of defeat, which should hold him in good stead moving forward in the tournament. He awaits the winner of the match between the local favorite and fifth seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the 18th seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals of this year's French Open.
File Photograph Copyright: Madrid Masters
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