Wawrinka gets his marathon moment

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MELBOURNE, Australia -- And just like that it was over, suddenly, if that's possible after four hours.

The streak of three straight Australian Open titles. The 28-match tour win streak. The 25 consecutive victories in this tournament. The 14 straight Grand Slam semifinals. The 13 wins versus top-10 players, 14 against Stanislas Wawrinka.

"Fourteen is already enough," Wawrinka joked in that way that only winners can.

An easy forehand volley pushed wide by one of the best clutch players in the game and Wawrinka had finally gotten the best of Novak Djokovic in Tuesday night's quarterfinals, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7.

"Of course, obviously I'm disappointed at this stage," said Djokovic, who seemed as shocked as anyone on match point. "But tomorrow is a new day. I have to accept the facts that you can't win all the matches that you play. One thing I can be proud of is that I gave my best. It wasn't enough. But again, I know that I fight all the way through and laid my heart out there. It's a battle. One of us has to lose. He was a better player. He stepped in and he won the match."

After last year's 5-hour, 2-minute round of 16 match here last year won 12-10 in the final set by Djokovic, he will forever be linked with Wawrinka, who shared another dramatic five-setter in the US Open semifinals last fall, also won by Djokovic.

Twice since then, Djokovic has beaten Wawrinka in straight sets, both on hard courts. But then Djokovic doesn't lose often, particularly in these kind of matches, particularly on this court, where he defeated Rafael Nadal in a 5-hour, 53-minute 2012 final, and in that same year, in just under five hours, in a five-set semifinal against Andy Murray.

"Pressure is a privilege," Djokovic told the media last week, perhaps unaware that was the title of a 2008 book by Billie Jean King. It didn't matter. They both get it.

"It means you're doing something that is very valuable, that is, of course, very important," Djokovic continued. "In my life I've always dreamed of being on this stage, competing at the highest level. So I try to look at the pressure on the brighter side, right?"

Wawrinka, the No. 8 seed, would certainly agree. A player who grew from losses, who took hope in defeat, so much so that after last year's heartbreaker against Djokovic, he had a quote by Irish playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett tattooed on his left arm reading: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better."

"In tennis, as you know, if you are not Roger or Rafa and Djokovic or Andy you don't win so many tournaments and you always lose," Wawrinka explained last year. "But you need to take the positive of the loss and you need to go back to work. … It's that simple."

It was not necessarily simple but Wawrinka indeed went back to work, getting fitter, getting tougher, biding his time, perhaps, for this night, when his opponent was in firm control of the opening set, the No. 2 seed looking as if he would not tolerate even the idea of another marathon.

But the 28-year-old Swiss player, who is accustomed to patience, as he has long toiled in the shadow of Roger Federer, turned things around in the second and took advantage of a shaky Djokovic third set. And he then rode out the seemingly unconscious serving of the 26-year-old Serb in the fourth and fifth.

When Djokovic broke his serve in the third game of the final set, Wawrinka simply broke back in the fourth. When Djokovic had a break point in the seventh game, Wawrinka shrugged it off, the same way he did a bizarre momentary cloudburst in the 11th game as he readied for his second serve at 40-15.

When rain halted play, Wawrinka glared at the chair umpire, unhappy the match was suspended. But when the players returned five minutes later, he was allowed a first serve and promptly blasted it for an ace and the game to take a 6-5 lead.

Was he lucky five games later when Djokovic chunked a return to give Wawrinka match point, then decided to serve and volley, missing a shot the Serb converts 99 times out of 100? Perhaps. But as Djokovic said, it's all relative.

Yes, he was disappointed by the way it ended, "but, I mean, I can say I was lucky with some shots last year in our match," Djokovic said. "This time it was him that had luck a little bit on 30-all, this mishit return. Then an easy volley for me on a match point. But this is sport. He showed his mental strength and he deserved to win."

Wawrinka said it was an advantage to serve second in the final set. "When I break back, I had the feeling that I had to go to take my chance," he said. "I had to stay really aggressive. 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.

"Yeah, it was a really tough battle. I start 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. But I had to do more with my serve, mixing more, and stay really aggressive."

While Djokovic was indeed masterful on his serve, making 77 percent of his first serves in the fifth set and winning 73 percent of them, Wawrinka was no slouch. He won 83 percent of his first serves (while getting in 58 percent) and committing just 14 unforced errors to 21 by Djokovic.

"Last time he always [found a] solution against me in the fifth set," Wawrinka said. "He was [the] better player. But, yeah, not tonight."

Djokovic agreed.

"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. He took his opportunities. He deserved this win today. I congratulate him absolutely. There is nothing I can say. I gave it my best. I gave it my all. I tried to come out as the winner. I tried to fight 'til the last point as I did [last year], but it wasn't to be this time."

So it will be Wawrinka who moves on to the semifinals, where he will meet No. 7 Tomas Berdych, who broke through to his first Australian Open semifinal in 11 appearances here with a 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory over No. 3 David Ferrer.

"It's a really great feeling," said Berdych, who stalled in his previous four Australian Open quarterfinals.

Wawrinka called it "a new year" and a great fight against "an amazing champion."

"He never gives up," Wawrinka said. "I'm really, really, really, really happy."

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