Djokovic holds off Wawrinka, Sharapova advances
Novak Djokovic held off a valiant Swiss player for a 5-hour, five-set victory Sunday night, extending his winning streak to 18 matches at the Australian Open and then ripping off his shirt to celebrate.
The big surprise: It was a fourth-round match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, not a final against Roger Federer.
Djokovic edged the 15th-seeded Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in a momentum-swinging marathon, cashing in on his third match point to reach the quarterfinals for a 15th consecutive major tournament.
The style was reminiscent of his 5-hour, 53-minute final win here last year against Rafael Nadal.
‘’He deserved equally to be a winner of this match,’’ said Djokovic, who is aiming to be the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian titles. ‘’I give him a lot of credit. He has all my respect. He was the aggressive player on the court. I was just hanging in there trying to fight.’’
Djokovic had beaten Wawrinka – the perennial No. 2 among Swiss tennis players to 17-time major winner Federer – in their 10 previous matches. He hadn’t lost a head-to-head since 2006 and had won 11 straight sets between them.
The win ‘’brings back the memories from 12 months ago with Rafa,’’ he said. ‘’We are midway through the tournament but it feels like a final to me.’’
Djokovic next faces Tomas Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist who advanced with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (13) win over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
Wawrinka was cramping and needed massages on both legs in the fifth set. He was so tired he decided not to challenge a decision on a call that went against him – wrongly, according to TV replays.
But he didn’t think it made a difference in the end.
‘’In five sets, five hours, you always have some opportunity to win a set or to win the match,’’ he said. ‘’If you don’t take it, he’s going to take it.”
Maria Sharapova has had almost no trouble on the women’s side, beating Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-1, 6-0 earlier Sunday to continue a dominant and unparalleled run in Melbourne.
The late-finishing men’s match almost changed the complexion of the tournament.
The second-ranked Sharapova has lost only five games in four matches on the way to the quarterfinals, an Australian Open record that seems immaterial to the 25-year-old Russian.