Fri, Jan 11, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Seppi rallies to defeat Sydney top seed Tsitsipas

AFP, SYDNEY

Veteran Andreas Seppi yesterday derailed top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas’ Sydney International title hopes, while homegrown rising star Ashleigh Barty claimed another top scalp to also advance to the semi-finals.

Seppi, 14 years older than his 20-year-old Greek opponent, has only won three ATP titles, but called on all his experience as he battled back for a gutsy 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win.

“For some reason, I always play my best tennis in Australia, so I really enjoy being here,” said Seppi, who broke immediately in the second set after losing the first.

“It was very important to start well in the second set. Good to have an early break so I could play a bit more aggressive and it worked out in the end,” he said.

Australia has been a home away from home for the Italian in the past few years.

In three round-of-16 appearances at the Australian Open, he pulled off upsets against Marin Cilic in 2013, Roger Federer in 2015 and Nick Kyrgios in 2017.

Defeat was a blow for world No. 15 Tsitsipas’ preparations for the opening Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne next week.

He was one of the sport’s most improved players last year, climbing from No. 91 after reaching finals in Barcelona and Toronto, losing both to Rafael Nadal, and was angling for the perfect start ahead of the Australian Open.

Seppi’s reward is a clash with third-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who needed to fight hard to beat Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7/1)

In the other quarter-finals yesterday, fifth seed Alex de Minaur defeated fellow Australian Jordan Thompson 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, while French fourth seed Gilles Simon was to face Australia’s John Millman later in the evening.

Australia’s Barty followed up her giant-killing wins over world No. 1 Simona Halep and former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko by easily accounting for 10th-seeded Belgian Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3.

The 22-year-old is now on a six-match win streak dating back to her career’s biggest title at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China.

“Nice and solid today, I was pretty happy at the way I was able to come out and play,” No. 15 Barty said.

She is to play Dutch seventh seed Kiki Bertens, who defeated Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-2, 6-2.

The first woman to book a semi-final spot was Belarussian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who beat Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky — on the comeback trail after a 14-month winless spell — 6-3, 6-3.

However, she has a daunting task ahead, after fifth seed and 2015 Sydney winner Petra Kvitova defeated world No. 2 and defending champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-1 in a match headlining yesterday’s night session.

In 12 meetings on tour, Kerber and Kvitova have won six each, splitting their two meetings last year.

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