Novak Djokovic’s quest for a three-peat is still alive. But just barely. The two-time defending Australian Open champion rallied from 6-1, 5-2 down to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in a scintillating fourth-round match Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena. When Djokovic hit a sharply angled backhand past Wawrinka at the net on his third match point, it was 1:41 a.m. Monday. The match stretched over five hours and two minutes and was remarkably reminiscent of Djokovic’s final win last year against Rafael Nadal. That marathon lasted 51 minutes longer. Wawrinka, the No. 15 seed, came out with guns blazing, pounding his serve and blasting howitzer-like groundstrokes to stun the top-seeded Djokovic at the outset. Nole scarcely knew what hit him. On the cusp of serving for a two-set lead, the Swiss’ level dropped slightly and Djokovic struck, reeling off five straight games to take the set. With the match level, an epic battle ensued over the next three sets. “It’s hard to find the words,” Djokovic said. “He deserved, equally, to be a winner of this match. I give him a lot of credit and respect. He was the aggressive player on the court, I was just trying to hang in there. It’s midway through the tournament but it feels like a final to me. This means a lot to me, and to him. Incredible that so many people stayed until nearly two in the morning. It brings back the memories of 12 months ago with Rafa.” Djokovic broke in the first and ninth games of the third set, after dropping serve in the second, to take a two-sets to one lead. The fourth set proceeded on serve to force a tiebreaker. Wawrinka got the only mini-break of the tiebreak to take a 2-0 advantage, and won it 7-5 to even the match. The Swiss broke in the opening game of the fifth set, but Nole broke right back. Djokovic saved two break points in the next game and four more in the ninth. All together, Djokovic cancelled seven of eight break points in the final set. Wawrinka saved two match points in the final game in spectacular fashion — a service winner on the first and a down-the-line backhand pass on the second — but succumbed on the third. “It’s by far my best match I ever play, especially in five sets against the No. 1 player,” Wawrinka said. Djokovic will face No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.
Djokovic Survives Epic Battle with Wawrinka
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