• Australian Open

Wawrinka finally gets past Djokovic in another five-set thriller

Alex Perry
January 21, 2014
Finally it's Wawrinka's time to get one over on Djokovic © Getty Images

Another grand slam meeting between Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic. Another five-set thriller.

Only this time it was Wawrinka's turn to raise his hands aloft in triumph as he ended Djokovic's Australian Open winning streak dating back to the 2010 quarter-finals.

The pair traded blow after blow after blow and the tennis was of the highest quality throughout, but the match was ultimately decided when Djokovic played his two worst shots of the night to gift Wawrinka match point - which he duly took to complete a 6-2 4-6 2-6 6-3 7-9 victory in four hours dead.

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Wawrinka had lost 14 straight head-to-heads with Djokovic going into the match - including five-setters at last year's Australian and US Opens - but this time a combination of thunderous serves, booming backhands and old fashioned steely determination ensured a second successive grand slam semi-final for the world No. 8.

It had looked all set to be a 15th straight Djokovic win the Serbian breezed through the first set, but Wawrinka bounced back in the second with an early break which he clung on to for dear life.

Not many players in the world have a backhand as sublime as Wawrinka, and the Swiss was in full flow in the third set, pushing Djokovic left, right and centre to break not once but twice to take a 2-1 lead.

Wawrinka was in the ascendancy and Djokovic persistently turned to Boris Becker and the rest of his coaching team and shrugged his shoulders. Once again he would need five sets if he was going to keep up his defence of a title he has won for the past three years.

The fourth set was tense and, while the backhand continued to dominate, Wawrinka's forehand let him down and Djokovic came from love-40 down to break at 4-3 and hold on to draw level at 2-2. Wawrinka put his hands on his hips and looked at the sky. His challenge looked over. The crowd roared him on.

The clock ticked past the three-hour mark and the fifth set opened with a series of holds, as early nerves were taken over by adrenalin. The atmosphere inside the Rod Laver Arena was electric.

Then the breakthrough, Djokovic recovered from love-30 down on Wawrinka's serve and a another sloppy forehand from the Swiss handed his opponent the break. But uncharacteristically, Djokovic failed to take advantage and Wawrinka broke immediately back to level the deciding set.

Suddenly both players found their serve again, with Wawrinka totting up 17 aces in total.

There was even time for a short rain delay at 6-6 in the fifth and with Wawrinka 40-15 up. It didn't faze him and he returned to slam another ace past Djokovic to seal the game.

Then, at 8-7 down and serving to stay in the championship, Djokovic made a decision that ultimately cost him his place in the semi-finals. Just like his new mentor Becker all those years ago, Djokovic gambled and rushed to the net. Only the outcome wasn't the same as we had become familiar with from the German as Djokovic's volley fell into the tramlines.

It handed Wawrinka the first match point of this epic battle, and he took it immediately, forcing Djokovic into pushing a baseline forehand long. The Serbian steamroller at the Australian Open was finally halted.

"Last year it was really tough but it's a new year and I came back," Wawrinka said.

"I did not start well, I was not feeling great on the court. I tried everything. He's an amazing champion and he never gives up."

He added with a beaming smile: "I'm really, really, really, really, really happy."

Wawrinka will now face Tomas Berdych, who held off the challenge of David Ferrer to reach his first Australian Open semi-final - and this tournament will have a final debutant on Sunday.

Seventh-seed Berdych cruised, somewhat surprisingly, into a two-set lead over the world No. 3 before seeming to collapse in the third and allow Ferrer back into the game.

But just as Ferrer looked set take his Czech opponent all the way, a series of unforced errors allowed Berdych to break and took match point at the second time of asking.

"It was physically very tough and after losing the third set I was not playing my best," Berdych said. "I was very up and down. I just had to focus for every single point. This is my first win in the Rod Laver Arena so I'm very happy."

Ferrer, a semi-finalist here in two of the previous three years, was clearly frustrated at times, yelling at himself after points and bumping into a line judge after breaking Berdych in the sixth game of the third set.

The 31-year-old Spaniard said it was an accident in a "nervous moment" as he went for his towel, saying: "It was nothing. I say to him excuse me after that."

Berdych has now reached the semi-finals of all four grand slams © Getty Images
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