Australian Open 2014: Reigning champion Novak Djokovic loses for first time in Melbourne since 2010 as the 'other' Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka advances
The match went to a final set tie-break which saw the Swiss knock out the winner of the past three Australian Open's 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The proverb might have been written with Stanislas Wawrinka in mind after the 28-year-old Swiss lost 14 matches in succession to Novak Djokovic, but on Tuesday his perseverance was finally rewarded. Wawrinka caused the biggest upset of the men’s tournament so far here at the Australian Open when he beat Djokovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7, dashing the world No 2’s hopes of winning the title for the fourth year in a row and ending his remarkable record of 14 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals.
Wawrinka, who will face Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals after the Czech beat David Ferrer 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, has long lived in the shadow of Roger Federer, his fellow Swiss, but this result brought further confirmation that he is becoming a significant figure in his own right.
Victory was achieved with a mixture of aggressive hitting and mental strength. Djokovic, who never knows when he is beaten, fought back to level a high-quality contest at two sets apiece and made the early breakthrough in the final set, but Wawrinka held firm to secure the biggest victory of his career.
“He’s so tough to beat,” Wawrinka said afterwards. “He’s an amazing champion. He’s always fighting. He’s always finding a solution.”
Djokovic screams out in anguish after seeing his 25-match unbeaten run at the Australian Open come to an end
Wawrinka enjoyed the best year of his career in 2013, reaching the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the first time. Nevertheless, the world No 8’s best performances in Grand Slam tournaments ultimately ended in disappointment.
Two five-set defeats to Djokovic were especially heart-breaking: Djokovic won arguably the match of the year when he beat Wawrinka 12-10 in the deciding set after five hours in the fourth round here last year and won another marathon in the semi-finals at the US Open after the Swiss had beaten Andy Murray in straight sets in the previous round.
Wawrinka, however, drew confidence from his progress. “I came on the court tonight with a lot of confidence in myself, knowing that if I play my best game I always have a chance against him,” he said.
“It’s always tough, especially against Novak. I was tired, I was cramping a bit, I was nervous too. I had to fight within myself to fight against him and try to keep my line during the game. Last year was really tough, this year it’s a new year.”
Djokovic had won 25 matches in succession here and 28 matches in a row in all competitions, his previous defeat having come in September at the US Open final. So much for Boris Becker, who became the Serb’s head coach only last month and has become a major focus of media attention ever since.
Defeat here will be especially hard to take for Djokovic. The Australian Open was the last Grand Slam title he held and this defeat means that Rafael Nadal will open up a large gap over him when the world rankings are updated next week. Nadal is playing Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, with Murray’s match against Federer to follow in the evening session.
Djokovic shows his frustration during the match
Wawrinka appeared to have taken charge of Tuesday’s match when he led by two sets to one but Djokovic, celebrating his most significant winners with raucous roars, levelled at two sets apiece and then made the first break in the decider. Wawrinka broke back, however, and as the set wore on the pressure of serving second seemed to get to Djokovic.
A short delay for rain only added to the drama, while Wawrinka started to suffer with cramp. When Djokovic served at 7-8, Wawrinka seized his chance. Djokovic’s missed backhand created match point and the Serb subsequently fluffed what should have been a routine volley.
“I had the feeling that I had to stay really aggressive,” Wawrinka said. “I had to push him a lot, because to be ahead in the score, it’s always an advantage, especially here when it’s quite fast and windy conditions.
“It was a really tough battle. I started to cramp a little bit in the middle of the fifth set, so I had to deal with that. I had to relax a little bit more. I was returning well. I had to do more with my serve, mixing more, and stay really aggressive.”
Djokovic said Wawrinka had deserved to win. “He served extremely well from the beginning to the end,” he said. “Every time he was in trouble, he was coming up with big serves.”
Wawrinka said it had not been easy to compete in an era dominated by four great champions in Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, but added: “Last year I took a lot of confidence from those matches with Novak. They were really close and I was playing well. We always have some great battles. I came on the court tonight with a lot of confidence in myself, knowing that if I play my best game, I always have a chance.”
At last year’s US Open Wawrinka went further in a Grand Slam tournament than Federer for the first time. Depending on results over the next few days, Wawrinka could become Swiss No 1 for the first time when the rankings are updated next week.
A popular and modest figure, Wawrinka nevertheless rejected the suggestion that he might now be the best Swiss bet for the title. “We all know that if Roger is playing his best tennis, he can beat everybody here,” Wawrinka said. “With me, it’s not the case. I have to play my best tennis. I have to hope that Novak is not in his best form, Rafa is not in his best form or Roger is not in his best form. It’s completely different.”
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