Melbourne – Italy's Andreas Seppi endured a more than four-hour epic in sizzling heat before finally overcoming a stubborn Lleyton Hewitt and a partisan Australian Open crowd on Tuesday.
The five-set thriller was played in heat that touched 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) with 24th seed Seppi emerging a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 5-7, 5-7, 7-5 winner in a draining four hours and 18 minutes.
It ended a typical Hewitt fightback and shattered his dream after a build-up that saw him beat Roger Federer in the Brisbane International final and Andy Murray in an exhibition.
“It was a really tough match. I struggled at the beginning of the third set with cramp in my hand,” said Seppi.
“I don't know how I played five sets but you have to keep going against Lleyton because he is such a fighter. I just tried to focus on my game.”
Hewitt looked dead and buried after going two sets down, but buoyed by a vocal crowd on Rod Laver Arena he battled back to take the next two to set up a pulsating decider.
The veteran Australian even had a match point at 4-5 in the fifth but Seppi fired an ace to stay alive and gained the decisive final service break when Hewitt pushed a forehand wide.
There was no way back for the 32-year-old as the Italian held his nerve to close out victory. – Sapa-AFP