July 21, 2004: The day Schuettler defeated Seppi after saving 10 match points

Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day, July 21, 2004, Rainer Schuettler saved 10 match points against Andreas Seppi in the second set before coming back to bagel the Italian in the decider

Rainer Schuettler OTD 07_21 Rainer Schuettler OTD 07_21

What happened exactly on that day?

On this day, July 21, 2004, in Kitzbuhel, Rainer Schuettler, from Germany, edged Andreas Seppi after saving no less than 10 match points (3-6, 7-6, 6-0). Although this did not establish a new record, it was still remarkable, as only three players in tennis history had fought off more match points. Wilmer Allison held the record of 18 match points saved before winning against Giorgio de Stefani in a 1930 Davis Cup tie, followed by Adriano Panatta, who had overcome 11 match points in Rome in 1976, and Simon Youl, who had saved 11 match points as well in Schenectady in 1989.

The players involved: Rainer Schuettler and Andreas Seppi

  • Rainer Schuettler: The former Australian Open finalist from Germany

Rainer Schuettler, from Germany, was born in 1976 and started competing on the tour in 1995. He broke into the top 100 in January 1999 after he claimed his first title in Doha as a qualifier, defeating world No 7 Tim Henman in the final (6-4, 5-7, 6-1). His best year on the tour was 2003, when he reached the Australian Open final (defeated by Andre Agassi, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1), before claiming two titles (in Tokyo and Lyon) and qualifying for the ATP Masters Cup. Hence, Schuettler obtained his best year-end ranking of world No 6.  In July 2004, although he had lost in the first round of the Australian Open, Schuettler was still ranked No 8, mainly thanks to a final reached at the Monte-Carlo Masters 1000 event (beaten by Guillermo Coria, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3).

  • Andreas Seppi: The Italian still finding his way into the main tour

Andreas Seppi, born in 1984, was ranked No 185 on the ATP charts at this time. The young Italian was more used to playing on the ATP Challenger circuit. He had only won one match so far on the ATP tour level, in June, in Halle, where he edged Nikolay Davydenko (7-6, 2-6, 6-3) before losing to Fernando Verdasco (6-3, 6-4).

The place: Kitzbuhel, Austria

The city of Kitzbuhel, a ski resort in the Austrian Alps, held a clay court tennis event every year since 1958 in summer, shortly after Wimbledon. Although it was not one of the biggest events in terms of prize money, top players often entered the tournament, attracted by the possibility to spend more time on clay, and by its beautiful scenery. Amongst former champions, there were tennis stars such as Pete Sampras (1992), Thomas Muster (1993) or Guillermo Coria (2003).

The facts:

In June 2004, Rainer Schuettler was still ranked No 8 in the world but his results were not comparable to his great 2003 season. He entered the minor clay court tournaments held in Europe before the American hard-court season hoping to build confidence as he had beaten only one top 10 player in 2004, Carlos Moya at Monte-Carlo in April. 

Still, the German was by far the favourite in this second-round encounter with 20-year old Andreas Seppi, who only held the 185th spot on the ATP rankings. The two players had never faced each other yet. However, the young Italian, relying on a huge forehand that he was not famous for at the time, took the first set, 6-3.

In the second set, when Seppi was up 5-4, and led 15-40 on Schuettler’s serve, the match was almost sealed. Schuettler bravely saved these two match points to stay in the contest. Two games later, the same scenario repeated itself: down 5-6, 15-40, the German managed to push his opponent into a tiebreak. In this memorable tiebreak, Seppi obtained six more match points, including two on his own serve at 10-9 and 12-11, before Schuettler eventually prevailed 15-13 on his third set point.

It was too much for young Andreas, who collapsed in a third set won 6-0 by Rainer Schuettler, who commented afterwards :

I lost the first set and then in the second set there was a very, very, close tiebreak and he had some match points. But I was starting to risking more on the big points. He had some match points and I had some set points in a long, long, tiebreak. Finally I won the tiebreak and that was very important because he then went down mentally and physically.

Rainer Schuettler was only the fifth player in tennis history to save that many match points before winning in the end, and the first one since Alberto Marin against Adrain Voinea in 1999 at the Bucharest Open.

Schuettler On this Day

What next? Seppi gains revenge over Schuettler at the US Open a few weeks later

Rainer Schuettler would go on to reach the semi-final in Kitzbuhel, defeated by Chile’s Nicolas Massu 6-3 6-3. A few weeks later, in the first round of the US Open, Seppi would take his revenge against Schuettler, this time in a reverse scenario as the German would lead two-sets-to-love before losing the three last sets and the match (3-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-1). 

Schuettler would play on the tour until 2012 but, after leaving the top 10 in 2004, he would not claim any further titles, and his only remarkable result would be a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon in 2008 where he lost Rafael Nadal (6-1, 7-6, 6-4). 

Andreas Seppi would break into the top 100 in 2005. The Italian would climb as high world No18, in 2013, claiming three titles in his career. The Italian would have a long career before finally hanging up his rackets in 2022.

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