Djokovic forced to fight by Wawrinka

 

Tennis:Novak Djokovic survived an almighty scare from an inspired Stan Wawrinka in a five-hour, five-set thriller at the Australian Open today, reaching a 15th consecutive grand slam quarter-final but only after digging himself out of a huge hole.

For the first 50 minutes of the 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 4-1 down to win the second and third sets, the world number 17 made the Serbian earn every point and forced a decider after a dramatic tie-break.

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 on Rod Laver Arena, Djokovic ripped off his shirt and roared in delight at a victory which kept alive his hopes of a third successive title at Melbourne Park.

"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. Tonight he showed his qualities. 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."

Fourth seed David Ferrer cruised past Kei Nishikori with what he described as “one of the best matches of my career at the Australian Open”.

Nishikori, the 16th seed, offered little threat to the Spaniard who won 6-2 6-1 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes to advance to his third successive quarter-final in Melbourne.

Ferrer broke twice in each of the first two sets to set up a comfortable win. The third was wild as Nishikori started to go for broke but, hampered by a knee injury, he failed to seriously threaten Ferrer’s chances of victory.

The fourth seed said: “It was a tough match but in the first two sets I didn’t make any mistakes. Today I played very well, it was one of the best matches of my career at the Australian Open. I’m happy with my game.”

His run this week means Ferrer will move into the top four of the world rankings but the modest 30-year-old admits he is some way behind established quartet Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and the injured Nadal.

He added: “I am only in the top four because Rafa has been injured for a long time. That is the truth. I think the top four, they are better (than me).”

Ferrer will take on another Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, in the last eight after he advanced when Janko Tipsarevic had to withdraw through injury.

Serbian Tipsarevic won his previous two matches in five sets but was trailing 6-2 5-1 when he pulled out with a jarred heel.

"That's not the way you want to win," said 10th seed Almagro.

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