Djokovic survives big scare
TENNIS:Novak Djokovic has survived an almighty scare from an inspired Stan Wawrinka in a five-hour, five-set thriller at the Australian Open, reaching a 15th consecutive grand slam quarter-final but only after digging himself out of a huge hole.
For the first 50 minutes of yesterday’s contest, Wawrinka played as if possessed by his compatriot Roger Federer and confounded the world number one with brilliant backhands and ferocious forehands to notch up five straight breaks of serve.
Even when Djokovic had weathered the worst of the storm and clawed his way back from 6-1 and 4-1 down to win the second and third sets, the world number 17 forced a decider after a dramatic tiebreak.
Roared in delight
The Swiss blew four precious break points in the ninth game of the fifth set and Djokovic converted his third match point with a brilliant backhand winner to seal a 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 12-10 win. In a conscious echo of his win over Rafa Nadal in last year’s nearly six-hour final, Djokovic ripped off his shirt and roared in delight
“We are only halfway through the tournament but it felt like a final to me,” said Djokovic, who will meet fifth seed Tomas Berdych in the next round.
“He deserved equally to be a winner of this match . . . He was the aggressor on the court and I was just hanging in there trying to fight. I always believed I could win the match and I am absolutely thrilled to be in the next round. It certainly brings back memories of last year with Rafa.”
Wawrinka, who left the court with tears in his eyes, was distraught after coming up short despite playing the match of his life.
“I think it’s the best match I’ve ever played,” he said. “At the end I was really close and I was really sad to lose, it was a great disappointment for sure.”
In the women’s draw it was business as usual as Maria Sharapova progressed to reach the last eight, having lost just five games all week – an Australian Open record.
Agnieszka Radwanska continued her perfect start to the year with her 13th successive victory to set up a quarter-final with Li Na, while David Ferrer eased further into the gap in the draw left by his injured compatriot Nadal.
Meanwhile, injury-hampered fifth seed Angelique Kerber crashed out. She was joined at the exit by men’s eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic, who retired with a foot problem after spending more than 11 hours on court in his four matches.
Sharapova was held up briefly when her serve deserted her in the first set, but she still hammered Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-0 6-1 to set up a clash with compatriot Ekaterina Makarova.
Ferrer has reached the quarter-finals for the third straight year with much less hoopla than Sharapova but with almost as much efficiency as he ended the challenge of Japanese Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-1 6-4.