Friday, May 25, 2018
Sports

No. 1 Djokovic survives 5-hour, 5-set struggle

MELBOURNE, Australia — The opponent was different, the match three rounds earlier. Still, the result gave Novak Djokovic a familiar feeling.

Djokovic needed just over five hours to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10 in a fourth-round match Sunday at the Australian Open, on the same court where he needed 5 hours, 53 minutes to beat Rafael Nadal in last year's final.

"I just had flashback of 2012," Djokovic said. "I tried to enjoy the moment and couldn't ask for more. What a match point … unbelievable."

He wasn't exaggerating. On his third attempt to end the match, his backhand crosscourt shot zipped past Wawrinka, who had mostly outplayed him, Djokovic conceded.

"He came up with great tactics," Djokovic said. "He didn't give me a lot of the same rhythm that I could get into the match. He was the one being in charge. I was passive."

The win was Djokovic's 18th in a row at Melbourne Park after winning the past two Australian titles and advanced the Serb to the quarterfinals of his 15th consecutive major.

Wawrinka stunned the top-ranked Djokovic, who had won their previous 10 meetings, with three service breaks in the first set and had a 5-2 lead in the second before Djokovic rallied by winning six consecutive games. But just as Djokovic seemed to take control, Wawrinka launched a comeback to force a fifth set.

Wawrinka said he would take away more positives than negatives after falling short. "For sure, I think the best match I have ever played," he said. "I fought like a dog, like always. At 4-4 in the final set, I thought I might have won the match, but he was just better."

Djokovic next plays No. 5 Tomas Berdych, who beat Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (15-13). Fourth-seeded David Ferrer faces Nicolas Almagro, who was leading 6-2, 5-1 when No. 8 Janko Tipsaveric retired from their match.

Maria Sharapova advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kirsten Flipkens in another impressive display. Last year's French Open champion has lost just five games through four rounds, breaking the Australian Open mark of eight held by eventual champions Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

"Well, I'm certainly happy to be playing this well but … it only gets tougher from here," said Sharapova, next plays Ekatrina Makarova.

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