Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka has sent four-time champion Novak Djokovic packing from the Australian Open quarter-finals, in one of the great matches in Open history.
Wawrinka outlasted the world No.2 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7 in exactly four hours, to bring the Serb’s 25-match winning streak at Melbourne Park to an end.
Wawrinka will now face a semi-final against Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who earlier downed world No.3 David Ferrer in four sets.
“I’m really, really, really, really happy,” was an exhausted Wawrinka’s immediate reaction.
He admitted the final games were a struggle, as he fought off muscle fatigue, exacerbated by a five-minute rain break during the 12th game of the last set.
“I was cramping a little bit because for sure it was a tough one, but also I was really nervous,” he said.
“It’s never easy to deal with that. Now I’m going to go into an ice bath for a long, long time.”
He said recovering physically would be a key to his semi-final chances against Berdych.
Djokovic said the final points were disappointing, but he gave his all.
“This is sport. I mean, he showed his mental strength and he deserved to win,” Djokovic said.
“I know that I (fought) all the way through and laid my heart out there.
“It’s a battle. One of us has to lose.”
The match shocased the best of men’s tennis with stunning winners and rising tension as each player had their own momentum and then lost it.
Early in the encounter, when Wawrinka lost 6-2 in the opening set, he looked shot.
The backhand that John McEnroe described as the best he has ever seen was deserting him and he was repeatedly left flat-footed.
But the sluggish Swiss finally got moving.
At 3-3 and 30-40 on Djokovic’s serve, a lengthy rally ensued, with the pair trading backcourt artillery shells before the Swiss spanked an obscene off-backhand to go up 4-3 and a break.
He held his nerve to serve it out and square things up.
Djokovic, seemingly unbeatable just half an hour before, had suddenly dropped his first set of the tournament.
His wobbles continued.
When Wawrinka broke again early in the third, it was mainly a case of Djokovic fluffing his lines and gifting his opponent points with unforced errors.
When he broke again, however, he had completely turned the match on its head.
He was out-serving, outthinking, outgunning and – incredibly – outrunning the three-time Open champion. Djokovic screamed in vain at Becker, who had his red head in his hands.
No-one – least of all Boom-Boom – could have imagined such a dramatic shift in momentum.
The decisive game in the following set was the eighth.
Wawrinka held a 40-0 lead, but Djokovic won the next five points, including an astonishing return of a wide first serve that just plopped in.
His bellicose roar said it all as he took it to a deciding fifth set.
With a break point at 1-1, Djokovic pounded and pounded Wawrinka’s sublime backhand, before abruptly shifting attention to the vacant forehand court to break.
Stuff you, said the Swiss, who immediately broke back.
An excruciating string of service holds – most of which went to deuce – then ensued.
Warwinka was cramping up and Djokovic was cracking up.
A brief rain delay only added to the tension.
Then, at 8-7, the unthinkable became reality.
Fighting to save match point, Djokovic sprayed the simplest of forehand volleys.
The indestructible and indefatigable Serb had been worn down and psyched out.
Wawrinka had won one of the most memorable matches in Australia in recent years.
The Swiss will now meet Tomas Berdych, who defeated third seed David Ferrer in four sets.
Two sets to the worse, the Spaniard was in a filthy mood and at one stage got in an altercation with a line judge.
Though not exactly the most compelling of players, Ferrer is a classic grinder and fond of a five set slog. When he calmed down to win the third, a marathon beckoned.
But the 2010 Wimbledon finalist Berdych held firm to advance to his first ever Australian Open semi-final.
Earlier, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard’s dream run continued when she rolled Ana Ivanovic.
Bouchard, who won 19 out of 24 points at the net, has proved a welcome breath of fresh air in Melbourne. Though it’s just her fourth Gland Slam, she had beaten the Serb at Wimbledon and now repeated the dose, breaking her serve seven times.
Next on the menu is Li Na, who barely raised a sweat in seeing off fellow 32-year-old Flavia Pennetta.
– with Jonathan Horn at thenewdaily.com.au
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