Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, in the past an easy win for No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, pushed the Lanky Serb to his limits in a five-hour five set battle in the fourth round of the Australian Open tennis tournament Sunday.
The final score was 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6577, 12-10, and every game of every set was a struggle for both players.
“It’s really hard to find the words to describe the feeling that we had to night, especially during the fifth set, Djokovic told ESPN.
“He deserved equally to be a winner of this match. I give him a lot of credit and respect; especially tonight, he showed his quality. He was the aggressive player on the court—I was just trying to hang in there trying to fight.
Djokovic thanked the fans for staying so late on a Sunday night, but what tennis fan would leave a match like that rather than be tired at work the next day?
“Just incredible,” he told the crowd. “It’s three in the morning and so many people stayed to watch. Thanks for staying so late, you made this match very special. Hopefully you enjoyed it as much as we did on the court.”
Asked how he managed to keep himself in the match after going down six-one, five-two, Djokovic replied, “He was playing well—he was mixing it up and using the right tactics, and serving extremely well.
“I just believed all the time that I could come back into the match and I did. Then, all the credit to him, he managed to win the fourth. He was very tough it could have gone either way, this match, and I’m just so thrilled to be through.”
Wawrinka Hot From the Start
The 27-year-old Swiss player came out hot, breaking his opponent three times in the first set to win 6–1, then twice more in the second before Djokovic finally held serve in the sixth game of the second set.
Djokovic closed the second set with an amazing defensive display, defending the net with amazing reactions. I t looked like the momentum had shifted. The Serbian champion won the set 7–5, but Wawrinka stayed in the match mentally and physically with booming forehand winners and sharp focus.
The third set opened with a trade of service breaks, then stayed on serve as the pair played evenly, trading cannon-shot ground strokes. Djokovic made more errors than usual but stayed in the match with his impenetrable defense, while Warinka hit several serves in the 135-mph range (one at 138)—the 17th ranked Swiss hit 16 aces with only two double faults.
Djokovic broke Wawrinka again in the ninth game; then ion the last game of the set, two lucky net cords bounced in the Serb’s favor, giving him the set.
Down two sets, most people expected Wawrinka to fold. Instead, he fought back harder, staying right with Djokovic to drive the set to a tie-break, which the Swiss player won.
Fitness became a factor as Wawrinka needed several leg massages between games and Djokovic had some tightness in is quads, but neither player showed signs of slowing down on the court. Wawrinka broke Djokovic early, then hit his first double-fault of the match. Untroubled, he played harder, while Djokovic again made key errors to lose the game.
The 25-year-old Serb came back to win the eighth game of the set to tie it a four each, after several trips to deuce.
The next few games were easy holds, with neither opponent scoring more than a point. The pair traded games; 7–7, 8–8, 10–10, neither faltered. Finally, with Wawrinka serving at 10–11, Djokovic got an edge. Wawrinka hit another double fault, then a couple of missed shots to take the game to deuce. Wawrink held tough with powerful serves, taking the game to deuce five times but this time it was the Swiss player missing key shots.
Finally after a rally which Djokovic kept alive with two acrobatic stretch volleys, Wawrinka tried to come to the net; Djokovic was able to beat him with a powerful crosscourt passing shot, earning the win after five hours, two minutes of really tough tennis.
Djokovic goes on to face Thomas Berdyc in the next round; this will be an especially tough match-up because the top-ranked Serb used so much to get by Wawrinka.
When asked if he would be ready for his upcoming match with Tomas Berdych, Djokovich joked, “My body feels great—it was only five hours.”
“I just try to enjoy every single moment of this sport,” he continued. “These kind of matches make you work so hard as a player, and make you appreciate the sport. I am really glad that I share this passion with so many people.
“I will start to think about my quarter [quarter-final match] tomorrow; I will try to enjoy my win at least tonight.”
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