MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic's bid for a fourth consecutive Australian Open title ended in a dramatic five-set quarterfinal loss to Stanislas Wawrinka, potentially leaving the door ajar for a new major champion.
No. 8-seeded Wawrinka lost 14 head-to-heads to Djokovic until a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 win on Tuesday night put him into a semifinal against No. 7 Tomas Berdych. That means there'll be at least one finalist in Australia who has never won a Grand Slam title.
Djokovic held off Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set in a 5-hour, 2-minute fourth-rounder last year — the longest Grand Slam match of the season — en route to his third straight Australian title. He also edged Wawrinka in five sets in the U.S. Open semifinals.
This time, it was Wawrinka's turn.
"I don't want to lose every time in five sets against Novak. I had to find solution," Wawrinka said. "I had to fight within myself to fight against him and try to keep my line during the game. That's mean being really aggressive.
"Last year I took a lot of confidence with those match with Novak ... I came on the court with a lot of confidence in myself, knowing that if I play my best game, I always have a chance against him. "
This one took exactly four hours and featured some stunning rallies, with both players openly showing amazement at some of the shots coming back from the other side of the net. And just to add to the drama, there was a five-minute rain delay with Wawrinka serving at 5-5 in the fifth.
Djokovic had to constantly serve to stay in the match after an early exchange of breaks in the fifth set, and the pressure finally told.
After all the superb shot making, it was a mis-hit from Wawrinka that set up match point. Djokovic chased the floating service return to the net but skewed his cross-court drop shot wide. He then missed a volley on match point, ending a run of 28 consecutive wins dating back to his U.S. Open final defeat to Rafael Nadal.
"He took his opportunities. He deserved his big win today," Djokovic said. "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.