For the first time in four years Novak Djokovic will leave the Australian Open in Melbourne without a title. The 3-time defending champion was stunned earlier today by Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 9-7 in the quarterfinals.
The rematch went the way of their two Grand Slam clashes from last year, both won by Djokovic in five sets. But after trading early breaks of serve in the second it Djokovic who flinched in the end duffing a serve-volley attempt down match point to give Wawrinka the match.
The win snaps Djokovic’s 28-match win streak and 25-match streak at the tournament. He also had won his last 14 against the Swiss who picked up his third career victory against Novak.
Djokovic was also playing his first event with new coach Boris Becker who in his tournament coaching debut sat and watched his charge fail to reach the SFs at a Slam for the first time since the 2010 French Open.
After the 4 hour win, Djokovic met the media and credited Wawrinka for the effort:
Q. Where do you feel the difference was tonight?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I think it was quite even. From the start I played better. Had some opportunities early in the second to get the break, and I didn’t use that. He served extremely well from the beginning to the end. Every time he was in trouble, he was coming up with big serves.
You know, he took his opportunities. He deserved this win today. I congratulate him absolutely. There is nothing I can say. You know, I gave it my best. I gave it all. I tried to, you know, come out as the winner. 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.
Q. What about the way the match ended? Must be disappointing.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, unfortunately. But, you know, I mean, look, I can say I was lucky with some shots last year in our match. This time it was him that had luck a little bit on 30 All, this miss hit return. Then an easy volley for me on a match point.
But this is sport. You know, I mean, he showed his mental strength and he deserved to win.
Q. How wary were you about playing him again?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he’s in a great form. In the last 15 months he’s had the best results. He’s established now in top 10. He’s been winning against top players in big tournaments. He won against Murray in US Open last year.
So he knows how to play now on the big stage. You could feel that with his game. He’s really taking to the opponent and stepping in. When you’re playing like this, only thing I can say is congratulations.
Q. You’ve had epic battles on that court the last few years. What’s going through your head when you’re out there on that court?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it’s amazing court, probably the court where I had most excitement in my tennis career throughout all my career. I mean, matches with Rafa, with Stan, last year, this year, some epic battles. Won many trophies in Australia, Rod Laver Arena.
I mean, I love that court. These are kind of matches that you work for, you live for, you practice for. You know, unfortunately somebody has to lose in the end. This year was me. I lost to a better player.
Q. Because of your history in five setters here, did you think going into this fifth set, did you feel confident?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, I did. I did feel confident. I mean, I started great. I made a break on 1 All in the fifth, and then I played a poor game, four forehand errors.
From the far end it was more difficult to play because you play against the wind. So most of the breaks were happening in the closer end. That’s where he won this match.
But still, it was very even and we both served well. Then, you know, in the end, couple of lucky shots and mistakes from my side decided the match.
Q. Sometimes you were watching Boris and your coach team trying to understand what was going on maybe?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I go through my emotions in the match. It’s not the first time. I’ve been doing that in the past.
Q. Will tonight influence your decision regarding the Davis Cup next week?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’ll see. It’s too early yet. I just came off the court. I’ll decide in next few days.
Q. In a game where there was so little between you and Stan, what do you take out of it going forward?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, of course obviously I’m disappointed, you know, at this stage. But tomorrow is a new day. I have to accept the facts that, you know, you can’t win all the matches that you play on.
One thing I can be proud of is that I gave my best. It wasn’t enough. But, again, I know that I fight all the way through and laid my heart out there. It’s a battle. One of us has to lose. He was, as I said, a better player. He stepped in and he won the match.
On the other hand, you know, these are the positives that I can take, as I previously said. Now, you know, it’s only the start of the season, so I’m going to see what I’m going to do next and take it from there.
Q. Now is Wawrinka able to win the tournament or would it be a huge surprise for you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. It’s not a huge surprise, because, as I said, he’s already feeling much more confident in the last year, year and a half.
With his performances on the big tournaments, you can say that he deserves to be where he is. You know, he deserves to win this match tonight because he’s a great player and he’s mentally matured and that’s it.
If he’s going to win or not, I don’t know. Every day is different.
Q. How do you sum up your work with Boris here?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, look, you know, it’s been the first official tournament for us. I’m satisfied with things that we’ve been talking about, working on. Of course, it’s unfortunate that we finished the tournament in quarterfinals.
But look, you know, as I said, it’s beginning of the season and we’ll see what’s coming next.
Q. Your winning streak, at some point it would have had to have ended. Did you ever think about how it would end?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I don’t try to think about the outcomes of the matches or streaks. I have the experience of playing on this level for many years. That has helped me to have the positive mental approach to everything.
I just influence, you know, what I can, and that is what I can do on the court, to be in the present moment. That’s how I’m playing tennis today.
You know, as long as I’m mentally so clear in my mind and as long as I have motivation to play this sport, this is the way it’s going to be.
Q. Physically how did this compare to the last two five setters you played against him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Physically I’m all right, you know. It was a tough battle mentally, physically, emotionally obviously. This is what happens when you play a top player on this stage, when you go the distance in the fifth.
Of course, you know, after playing four hours you are a little bit exhausted, but I do not feel, you know, too exhausted. I could have played for a while.
Q. Less taxing physically than here last year with him?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Last year was also a big battle. Maybe the court was a bit slower so we played more, I would say, rallies, more exchanges than this year.
Q. Can you talk through your decision to serve and volley on match point.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, he’s been blocking my serve. He’s been chipping the return for the whole match basically. And it was actually a good decision. I had a good serve and volley and good volley, but didn’t put it away.
Q. You leave with a 25 match winning streak in Melbourne. How proud are you of what you’ve accomplished at this tournament?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I have to be very proud of my accomplishments in my whole career, and especially in this tournament. This is definitely by far the most successful Grand Slam that I have.
I’ve been enjoying Australia, enjoying the support here and the conditions. I can’t wait to come back next year.
Q. Did the faster conditions hurt your chances this year?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I got used to it. At the start it was of course a little bit different for players to get used to the faster conditions. But after two matches I was ready, feeling well on the court, and comfortable.
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