Novak Djokovic Narrowly Eludes Stan the Man in 5 Epic Sets at Australian Open

Clay MorrisCorrespondent IIJanuary 20, 2013

Djokovic would ultimately prevail after five hours of play in Rod Laver Arena against the formidable Stanislas Wawrinka.
Djokovic would ultimately prevail after five hours of play in Rod Laver Arena against the formidable Stanislas Wawrinka.Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

Michael Chang defeats Ivan Lendl at the 1989 French Open.

Goran Ivanisevic defeats Patrick Rafter at the 2001 Wimbledon Championships.

Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal at the 2009 French Open.

Now, Stanislas Wawrinka ALMOST defeats Novak Djokovic at the 2013 Australian Open. But not quite.

In what can only be considered one of the greatest matches in recent Australian Open history, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia avoided a monumental upset by defeating World No. 17 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the fourth round at the 2013 Australian Open by an astonishing scoreline of 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5-7), 12-10, effectively tossing the tennis world into hysteria, all the while knocking Djokovic off of his proverbial pedestal of apparent invincibility.

Djokovic had seemed virtually unstoppable, clearly the favorite to cruise to at least the final after the clinical performances he put on in each of his first three matches. Besides his impeccable first-week performance at the Aussie Open, Novak was the two-time defending champion at Melbourne Park.

In an unbelievable turn of events—practically a sheer role reversal—it was Wawrinka who started the Round of 16 match on a hot streak, breaking Djokovic three times in the first set with a combination of strong serving and creative groundstrokes. Normally regarded for the quality of his one-handed backhand, of particular note early in this match were Stan's inside-out forehands, which he used to keep the slipping and sliding Novak (who almost fell uncharacteristically several times in the opening of the affair) off balance or to finish points succinctly.

After breaking Djokovic's serve for a third time in the first set to win it 6-1, Wawrinka continued his shocking run of form by breaking Djokovic's serve two more times in the beginning of the second set.

But true to the supposed psyche of the 15th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, who is sometimes known to struggle mentally when in advantageous positions in important matches, Wawrinka failed to serve out the second set at 5-3 and would go on to lose the next four games and the set, 7-5. 

The battle would intensify, but after exchanging breaks in the third, Djokovic would begin to play into the form of a champion, and he would end up taking the set in 45 minutes by a score of 6-4.

By now the crowd was beginning to sense that the World No. 1 Serbian was regaining the same sort of control that has seen him dictate the ATP World Tour for the past two years, and as a result began backing Stanislas with blaring and boisterous cheering. Serving picked up from both men, and the energy in Rod Laver Arena reflected the magnitude of the moment as the players made their way into a fourth set tiebreak. 

After playing an amazingly high level of tennis, and some serious shot-making to remember, Wawrinka would bare his soul and shout at the top of his lungs as he secured the tiebreak, seven points to five, and threw the match into a fifth and deciding set.

The excitement could not be contained as the fifth set began. Wawrinka would receive medical treatment from the trainer several times in the final set for apparent leg cramps, but that wouldn't stop him from breaking the Djokovic serve in the very first game. 

But Djokovic would immediately come screeching back, producing consistent and fluid baseline strokes to level the set at one game all after converting a break point of his own.

The set would fluctuate back and forth, each man having opportunities to break service. But all looked lost for the Swiss serving at 3-4 down, facing double break point at 15-40. In a great display of courage and will power, Wawrinka saved both break points and went on to hold his end of the bargain.

The crowd was delirious when Wawrinka manufactured four break points of his own at 4-4 in the fifth, but would fail to convert as Novak showed the steely heroism and fortitude that has won him five grand slam titles to hold his service.

Over the next few games, as the match extended beyond the normal six games all set-end (fifth sets at grand slams other than the U.S. Open do not culminate in tiebreaks and are instead played out as per usual), both Djokovic and Wawrinka looked totally deflated, as if all the vitality was fading from their bodies.

Service was now dominating. Six games all. Then eight games all. Ten games all.

Then, at 11-10, Djokovic would create a match point. Stan would save it with a monstrous serve up the middle of the tee.

Djokovic forced a second. In miraculous fashion, Wawrinka would again erase it with a rocketed backhand up the line, throwing his hands in the air afterward in celebration.

Lastly, a third match point opportunity. In the most stunning point of the match, Djokovic would blast an angled cross court backhand passing shot beyond Wawrinka's reach, who crumbled at the net as Djokovic celebrated by ripping his shirt off of his body (much like last year's celebration in the finals of the 2012 Australian Open). 

After five hours and three minutes, Novak Djokovic of Serbia would finally shut Stanislas Wawrinka out of title contention at the 2013 Australian Open in the mammoth fourth-round encounter. 

Stan would hit 69 winners to Djokovic's 51. Wawrinka finished with 93 unforced errors to  Djokovic's 66. The total number of points won by each player would be excruciatingly close at 209 for the victorious Serbian and 200 for the defeated but valiant Swiss.    

It is truly a shame someone had to lose, as victory was well deserved by both men for their colossal efforts. But Djokovic proved yet again to the tennis world that when he is standing on Rod Laver Arena, he is a tier above everyone else.

One thing is for sure: Novak Djokovic definitely won't be thinking about his upcoming quarterfinal match anytime soon.


For complete match statistics, click here.