Photo: Paul ZimmerStanislas Wawrinka (SUI) and Novak Djokovic (SRB)
As he ripped off his shirt after playing over five hours on Rod Laver Arena, Novak Djokovic let out a roar that echoed his sentiments from almost exactly a year ago when he contested the longest Grand Slam final.
Twelve months on and the result was the same but the outcome looked in doubt until the Serbian played the last passing shot of the match to physical and metaphorically reduce bring his opponent to his knees.
Djokovic somehow found a way to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka, who was in scintillating form for every second of the 5-hour two-minute encounter that had the crowd on the edge of its seat until the wee small hours of the morning.
An exhausted Djokovic said after the match: “One of the longest, most interesting, and most exciting matches I played in my career. I feel sorry that one of us had to lose.
“He definitely deserved to win. But the credit to him, he made me run all over the court. He never gave me the same ball. He was aggressive from both sides. I didn't know what's coming up next. So I'm just really full of joy after this match.”
And what a match it was, full of winners from both sides of the net from start to finish. It also means that the last three 5-set clashes on Rod Laver Arena have all got one thing in common – each one has features Djokovic and he has won all three of them.
As is the way with sporting encounters of such caliber, there has to be a winner and a loser and Wawrinka will have endeared himself to tennis fans around the world with the way he played.
“I think it's by far my best match I ever play,” he explained. “Especially in five sets against the No. 1 player. At the end I was really, really close. For sure I'm really sad. It's a big deception to lose that match. But I think there is more positive than negative.”
The rest of the men’s matches all but went to form. Tomas Berdych progressed to the last eight without dropping a set after defeating Kevin Anderson 63 62 76(13) and David Ferrer made similarly light work of Kei Nishikori to win 62 61 64.
The only relative upset of the day on the men’s side saw Nicolas Almagro progress to his first Australian Open quarterfinal when No. 8 seed Janko Tipsarevic retire at 62 5-1 down with a jarred left heel.
The women’s draw followed a similar trend to the men’s with three of the four higher-ranked players progressing to the quarterfinals. No. 2 Maria Sharapova became the first woman to drop just five games through the first four rounds at Melbourne Park since the 128 draw was introduced with a 61 60 demolition of Kirsten Flipkens.
She will play Ekaterina Makarova in the quarters after her countrywoman knocked out the fifth seed Angelique Kerber 75 64.
Agnieszka Radwanska saw off Ana Ivanovic 62 64 and will play Li Na after she defeated Julia Goerges 76 61 on the seventh day of the tournament.