By PJ Yeong
Current ATP Rank: 25
Born: Bolzano, Italy
Resides: Kaltern an der Weinstraße, Italy
Best Known For: Reaching the 3rd round of Wimbledon (2008, 2009) and US Open (2008)
Career Titles: 2
Andreas Seppi is the top ranked male tennis player for Italy. Tennis fans know him; but mostly those who belong to the group of diehards that track every single tournament from the ATP 250s to the Grand Slams, and those who willingly sacrifice sleep to watch people whacking a little green ball on an often jerky live-stream on a computer. A casual tennis fan probably wouldn’t know the name or recognise the (rather pretty) face. Yet Seppi has been playing on the men’s tour for over a decade. He is a constant on the tour, with a pleasing game, but without the consistency that will be needed to nudge him further up the rankings, or the results that will garner the attention of media and fans. Nevertheless, the last 12 months of his career has probably been his best.
A Little History
As most European players, Seppi grew up playing on clay. He turned professional in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2003 that he made his first appearance in an ATP event. Fresh from his first Futures win in Munich, he qualified for the main draw of the Austrian Open in Kitzbühel. 2004 marked Seppi’s debut on the stage on the Grand Slams, where he qualified for the US Open. He caused an upset when he defeated the 11th seed Rainer Schüttler in 5 sets, coming back from 2-sets-to-love down. His run came to an end in the next round when he fell to Michaël Llodra. Throughout his career, he has never progressed to the second week of a Slam, and his best achievements were 3rd round showings at Wimbledon and US Open on three separate occasions.
Seppi has enjoyed success on the clay courts of Hamburg, when the tournament was still part of the ATP Masters 1000 series. He reached the quarter-finals in 2005 as a qualifier, beating 12th seed Guillermo Cañas before losing to Richard Gasquet. In 2007, Seppi managed to reach his first career final at the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad; however, he lost the title match to Paul-Henri Mathieu. He completed another milestone in his Masters 1000 career in 2008, again in Hamburg. There, he beat 8th seed Gasquet and 12th seed Juan Mónaco en route to reaching the semi-finals. He finished the year ranked inside the top 50 for the first time in his career, at no.38.
Seppi has a few famous wins under his belt. In 2006, as a qualifier, he beat top seed and then world no.4 Lleyton Hewitt (who was suffering from the effects of a virus) on his home ground at the Medibank International in Sydney. He saved match points in the second set, and recovered from a break down in the third set to eventually pull off the win. His most momentous victory came in 2008, in the indoor tournament of Rotterdam. He repeated his win over Hewitt in the first round, and then ousted the top seed and world no.2 Rafael Nadal in three sets, giving himself a memorable 24th birthday present. In the post-match on-court interview, Seppi humorously remarked he “had his tickets booked for Wednesday” when he saw his draw. He then fell to eventual finalist Robin Söderling in the quarter-finals.
In 2011, Seppi won his first ATP title in the grass courts of Eastbourne, in his second ATP final appearance. He collected the title after his opponent Janko Tipsarevic retired 3-5 down in the 3rd set, due to a groin injury, amidst controversy about the fading light.
Seppi began 2012 on a bit of a low note. He reached the quarter-finals in his first tournament of the year in Doha, but subsequently suffered first-round exits in Sydney and the Australian Open. He didn’t play particularly well in his next few tournaments; recording early exits in first rounds and second rounds, save for quarter-final showings in Rotterdam and Bucharest, where he lost to Tomas Berdych and countryman Fabio Fognini respectively.
Entering the Serbian Open in Belgrade as the second seed, Seppi cruised through his draw before meeting David Nalbandian in the semi-finals. He came through a hard-fought match in three sets to set up the title match against surprise finalist Benoît Paire in his first career final. Seppi defeated the Frenchman comfortably in straight sets, and won his second career title.
He entered the Rome Masters 1000 – his home tournament – riding on a wave of confidence after the Belgrade clay title. He eased past Denis Istomin in the first round, and then he was drawn to meet the 9th seed, big-serving American John Isner. After losing the first set tamely with a score of 6-2, Seppi matched Isner point for point in the second set, forcing a tiebreaker and winning the set on a long return from Isner. He then dug deep to carve a break at 5-all in the third set, and then served out the match much to the delight of the Italian crowd. In his next match, he played Stanislas Wawrinka. The home crowd was treated to a thrilling and intense match featuring three tiebreakers. With the spectators firmly behind him and soundly booing his opponent, Seppi saved 6 match points in total to emerge the victor. With the win, he reached his third quarter-final at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament. However, Seppi failed to complete a Swiss double, falling to Wawrinka’s countryman Roger Federer in the next round. Nevertheless, his performance was certainly a pleasing treat for the Italian fans, and a huge accomplishment for himself.
Seppi’s solid results in the year thus far propelled him to a career best ranking of no.25. He has enjoyed some of the best months of his 10-year career, winning a tournament and pulling off thrilling wins over higher-ranked opponents in front of a home crowd. Although he is considered to be a veteran of the tour, his recent results do suggest he has more to give to the tour, and more to show the tennis fans. Sitting on his best ranking, his recent successes may give him the boost of self-belief that he still has a few momentous and surprising wins left in him.
1) Like most tennis players on tour, Seppi is multilingual. His native language is actually German, and he speaks English and Italian as well.
2) Seppi is close friends with fellow Italian players Potito Starace and Fabio Fognini. Starace apparently was his “supplier” of movies.
3) Seppi has reached the semi-final stage of tournaments in all 3 surfaces: clay, grass and hard courts. His favourite surface is clay and he also considers that surface to be his best.
4) Seppi cites Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov as his favourite player and an inspiration.
5) Besides tennis, the other sports he enjoys are soccer and skiing, and he is an avid supporter of AC Milan.
What the Fans Are Saying …
Aniek enjoys watching Seppi play. She likes the fact that he always fights on court. She cites his 2008 Wimbledon match against Marat Safin as an epic match in her book (Safin won the match in 4 tightly contested sets).
Seppi, to Frannie, is her “quiet warrior”, resilient, unassuming, yet oozes resolve and determination. Her favourite Seppi moment was when he won his first title on the grass courts of Eastbourne last year. She thinks Seppi showed dignity and poise as he stoically put up with the atrocious weather and the controversial antics of his oppoenent (Janko Tipsarevic). Frannie likes how he never whinges or throws hissy fits on court. He just gets on with it and is always dignified and respectful, which she reckons should be an example to many of the higher-ranked players. She is delighted by his wonderful run in Rome and hopes that he can keep up the momentum for the rest of the season.
(Photo by Darko Vojinovic/AP Photo)