|Stanislas Wawrinka after beating Novak Djokovic, at the
Rod Laver Arena, on Tuesday. (Getty Images)
Melbourne: A brilliant Stanislas Wawrinka ended Novak Djokovic’s three-year reign at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, closing out a five-set classic at a heaving Rod Laver Arena to sensationally dump the Serb from the Australian Open quarter finals.
Heartbroken by Djokovic in two five-set epics in Melbourne and the US Open last year, the eighth-seeded Swiss played out of his skin to upset his Grand Slam nemesis 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 in an exhilarating four hours.
Wawrinka stayed cool in a deciding set of unrelenting tension, sealing it when the former world No. 1 pushed a shot wide on match point. His triumph blew the tournament wide open, setting up a semi-final with Czech Tomas Berdych, while snapping the Serb’s 28-match winning streak.
“He’s an amazing champion, he never gives up. I’m really, really, really happy,” Wawrinka said in a courtside interview. “I was really focused point after point. I had to stay aggressive, not to give up. I was tired, I was cramping a bit, I was nervous too. But now I'm going to have an ice bath for a very long time.
“Last year was really tough, this year it’s a new year.”
Wawrinka’s bid to claim a maiden Melbourne Park semi-final appearance started nervously as he notched a trio of unforced errors to gift the Serb the opening break in the sixth game.
Djokovic knuckled down to hold serve and prised two set points off his opponent's serve. The Swiss saved one but was powerless to save the second as a jet-heeled Djokovic rushed in to retrieve a kind net-cord and whipped a drop-shot cross-court.
Big-serving Berdych fended off a belated challenge from baseline hustler David Ferrer to reach his maiden Australian Open semi-final with a gritty 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory.
The rangy seventh seed cruised to a two-set lead over a surprisingly listless Ferrer but spontaneously collapsed in the third set under pressure from the dogged Spaniard.
“That’s how the set-up is. Really, I’m not complaining at all,” the 28-year-old told reporters, having made the semi-finals in his 11th appearance at Melbourne Park. “Both are great arenas with great crowds. The important (thing) is to keep winning, and finally I have a first scalp here, as well.”
In women’s singles, showing poise and maturity beyond her 19 years, Eugenie Bouchard became the first Canadian to reach the semi-finals at Melbourne when she upset former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.
On court, she was calm throughout, even after losing the first set and then, when she was leading 4-3 in the second, having to wait for several minutes while Ivanovic took a medical timeout for treatment to her left hip.
“I’m glad I looked (calm),” she said, when asked how she dealt with the delay. “We’d just had a tough game. I tried to keep fighting and play aggressive and I think I stepped it up in the third set.”
China’s Li Na wasted little time in advancing to her fourth Australian Open semi-final with a seemingly effortless 6-2, 6-2 demolition of Flavia Pennetta. The 31-year-old, who has reached two of the last three finals at Melbourne Park, blasted the 28th-seeded Italian off the court in 66 minutes with a strong first serve and barrage of powerful ground strokes.
The fourth seed has raced through the last two rounds at the season-opening grand slam after almost being knocked out by Lucie Safarova in the third round when she had to fight off a match point. She felt that victory had given her confidence she could win her first title at Melbourne Park.