Marathon man Djokovic survives Seppi scare


Novak Djokovic staged an epic French Open fourth round recovery to defeat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday and salvage his dream of making Grand Slam history. The world number one, bidding to become just the third man to hold all four majors at the same time, and first since 1969, struggled in the cold conditions on Philippe Chatrier court against a player he’d beaten seven times in seven meetings.
“I played very badly, but I won thanks to my fighting spirit,” said Djokovic. The 25-year-old Serb has never got beyond the semi-finals in Paris and saw a 43-match winning run ended by Roger Federer in 2011 at the last four stage as his love-hate relationship with the venue hit a new low.
And for the first two sets on Sunday, he was heading for more misery and the biggest shock since Rafael Nadal had his perfect 31-match, four-title stretch smashed by Robin Soderling at the same stage in 2009. But the top seed regrouped to record his third win from two sets to love down after pulling off similar Houdini acts against Federer in the US Open semi-final last year and Wimbledon second round against Guillermo Garcia Lopez in 2005. His reward, after a tie which featured 158 unforced errors, is a clash with either French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, the 18th seed, for a place in the semi-finals.
Djokovic looked on course for a routine afternoon’s work when he broke in the second game of the first set on his way to a 3-0 lead. But 22nd-seeded Seppi, playing in his first Grand Slam fourth round match at the 29th attempt, and thriving in the bleak June weather, hit back in the fifth game and broke again to nudge ahead at 5-4.
A long forehand from Djokovic handed the 28-year-old Italian the opener, only the third set he had won against the Serb in his seven previous meetings.