Australian Open: Stanislas Wawrinka beats Novak Djokovic in five-set epic
By Razwan Mirza - Tweet me: @RazMirza. Last Updated: 21/01/14 4:58pm
Stanislas Wawrinka reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open after a titanic five-set epic victory against three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic.
A year after their famous fourth-round clash in Melbourne and just months after their sensational semi-final at the US Open, in which Djokovic prevailed in five, Wawrinka finally gained his revenge, winning 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7 in four hours.
It was the first time since 2006 that the Serb had been beaten by Wawrinka and his 25-match winning run Down Under and 28 overall to a juddering halt.
The Swiss star will now meet Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych for a place in the Melbourne final.
Djokovic was bidding to become the first man since Roy Emerson to win four straight Australian Open titles, and he had not lost a match since the US Open final in September.
He swept through the opening set thanks to a couple of breaks of serve.
But Wawrinka hit back by breaking for the first time in the match in the sixth game of the second set before comfortably serving it out.
The Swiss No 2, coached by Swedish 12-time tour-winner Magnus Norman, then cranked it up against an off-colour Djokovic and quickly established his authority from the back of the court with breaks in the third and fifth games of the third.
He went on to seal it after winning 10 out of 12 games to move to within a set of reaching his second successive Grand Slam semi-final.
The six-time major-winner Djokovic, encouraged by tennis legend Boris Becker in his camp, upped his intensity level, winning 10 points on serve at the start of the fourth set.
Wawrinka was hanging onto the Serb's coattails after a marathon sixth game in which he managed to hold following four deuces.
However, Djokovic showed true grit in the next after making an audacious passing lob which looped in to bring up advantage and he was gifted the break after an unforced error from Wawrinka.
Although the in-form Swiss had opportunities to immediately break back, Djokovic served out the set with his third ace of the game to take the contest into a deciding set.
And he hit the front with a break in the third game, producing some outrageous angled forehands to keep his opponent behind the baseline and on the stretch.
The eighth seed broke back to 15 in the next game after some glaring errors from the racquet of the world No 2 and he held for 3-2 with an ace, despite being break point down.
"I did not start well, I was not feeling great on the court. I tried everything. He's an amazing champion and he never gives up but I'm really, really, really happy."
Lausanne-born Wawrinka was put under pressure again in the seventh game, but two aces in a row helped him out of a hole and a 4-3 lead.
With the contest finely poised at 5-5 and Wawrinka leading 40-15 on serve, the match was interrupted for a few minutes after light drizzle over Rod Laver Arena. When play did restart, the 28-year-old duly held.
Djokovic then held comfortably for his ninth love service game in the 12th game of the fifth set and he was then forced to play some of his best tennis to hold for 7-7.
The champion went match point down in the 16th game of the match and handed Wawrinka victory at the first time of asking after pullling an easy volley into the tramlines.
Wawrinka raised his arms in celebration after reaching the semi-finals at a major for just the second time in his career.
"Last year it was really tough but this year I came back, it's a new year," said a delighted Wawrinka. "I did not start well, I was not feeling great on the court. I tried everything. He's an amazing champion and he never gives up but I'm really, really, really happy."
Meanwhile, Djokovic said: "He took his opportunities. He deserved this win today. I congratulate him absolutely. I tried to fight till the last point as I did in a very similar match we did last year fourth round, same court, but it wasn't to be this time."