The first nine hours at the Australian Open Sunday were about as exciting as watching the clouds drift overhead. Then Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka took the court on Rod Laver and things got good. Real good. And if you stayed up for the entirety, jaw-droppingly good.
In what was supposed to be a one-way rout for Djokovic turned into a harrowing 5-hour rollercoaster of a match that ended around 1:45am local time with Djokovic somehow winning 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 12-10.
Yes, another mighty marathon won by Djokovic.
Early on, however, it was a lopsided start to the match in which the heavy favorite Djokovic quickly found himself down a set and 5-2 to the “other Swiss”.
On brink of going down two sets, the Serb, though, recovered thanks in maybe part to a sneaker change midway through the second set that righted his slippery footing and got his game back on song.
Djokovic ran off five straight games to steal the set. In the third, Djokovic broke at 4-4 after an exhilarating rally and then served it out.
Wawrinka managed a break point in Novak’s first service game in fourth but chunked a drop shot, and had another later. Things settled as the duo headed to a fourth set breaker. Wawrinka gained the early break, then led 6-3 before Djokovic narrowed.
Stan, still slugging groundstrokes, would be denied taking the breaker 7-5 and forcing a fifth.
Wawrinka immediately broke a deflated Djokovic to open the final stanza. Djokovic though broke right back and away we went. With Novak serving first, it was the Serb who was under more pressure in service games. The Swiss who was fighting some cramps held multiple break chances in multiple games, but just couldn’t covert, finishing 1/8 on break chances in that final set.
And in the end in the 22nd game of the match Djokovic finally broke through on his third match point with a scintillating backhand pass that will be talked about for years to come.
“He had many chances to be the winner of this match,” Djokovic said. “He had a better start; he had a lot of break balls in the third; he was a break up; he was the one being aggressive, being in the court. All the credit to him. I feel sorry that one of us had to lose. He definitely deserved to win.
“But I’m just thrilled to be able to fight once again up to the last moment. The fact is that I haven’t played nearly my best and I didn’t feel well on the court in terms of rhythm and ball striking.”
Said Wawrinka who had lost 10 straight to Novak, “I think it’s by far my best match I ever play, especially in five sets against the No. 1 player. Especially I was dealing with myself all the five hours, trying to always find solution, trying to always fight against me and against him to stay with him. At the end I was really, really close. For sure I’m really sad.”
Earlier, it was a day of straight sets wins and overall dull matches. Ekatarina Makarova made hear yearly pilgrimage out of her tennis cave to reach her second straight Australian Open quarterfinal after edging No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-4. The German was suffering from a bad lower back that Makarova, who beat Serena Williams in that same round a year ago, capitalized upon.
David Ferrer then took advantage of an ailing Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Nishikori had twice beaten Ferrer in three meetings, but this time because of a suspect left knee Ferrer dominated much of the match.
“Today I played very good, one of the best matches on my career in Australian Open,” said Ferrer after his eighth straight match win. “I’m very happy with my game. The result, it was in three sets, but the game, it was very, very difficult to beat Nishikori.”
Maria Sharapova followed by hammering Kim Clijsters protege Kirsten Flipkens into a pulp 6-1, 6-0. The former Aussie champ has lost just five games in five matches as she heads to a rematch with Makarova. Wasn’t there an issue with the collarbone? Oh well.
Elsewhere, Tomas Berdych blitzed Keven Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 to reach his third straight Australian Open quarterfinal. The match came to a close with a nail-biting 15-13 third set tiebreaker.
“I would say I felt much better,” Berdych said comparing this year to 2012. “The last year was a pretty, I would say, big year for me. There were many new experience that I learned. I hope that I’m gonna be able to profit from that. On the other hand last year I spend much more time on court. And, of course, every single piece of energy I’m going to need for the next match.
“So now I felt pretty good. I mean, I just play every single match by three sets. Everything was fine. I felt physically well. I hope that’s actually now the big match gonna waiting for me.”
Li Na reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal since her 2011 French title, and she’ll meet No. 4 seed Agenieszka Radwanksa who drilled Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-4. Radwanksa has won all 13 of her matches this year and all 26 sets.
“Well, what can I say?” Radwanska said. “I’m just very happy that I can play on the very high level. Already 13 matches not even losing a set. Well, I hope I can keep going three more.”
And Nicolas Almagro reached his first Australian Open quarterfinal after Janko Tipsarevic retired in the second set.
On Monday, four-time Australian Open champ Roger Federer meets his second straight youngster. And like Bernard Tomic, Federer has beaten Milos Raonic in their first three meetings except the Canadian won sets in each one.
Andy Murray will clash with Gilles Simon, assuming the Frenchman is still alive after the exhaustive Saturday night marathon he played against his countryman Gael Monfils. Fellow Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet meet for the first time since 2009. Serena Williams, defending champion Victoria Azarenka, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and rising American Sloane Stephens are also in action as the fourth round comes to a close Down Under.
Rod Laver Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v. Elena Vesnina (RUS)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v. Richard Gasquet (FRA)
Rod Laver Arena 7:30 PM Start Time
Serena Williams (USA) v. Maria Kirilenko (RUS)
Milos Raonic (CAN) v. Roger Federer (SUI)
Hisense Arena 11:00 AM Start Time
Not Before:12:30 PM
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) v. Andreas Seppi (ITA)
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v. Sloane Stephens (USA)
Not Before:5:00 PM
Gilles Simon (FRA) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
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