The Grandstand presents its 2013 Matches of the Year, wrapping up the segment with No. 1. Thanks to the No. 1 player in the world at the time with a huge assist from an improbable underdog, the season began with a bang Down Under. Novak Djokovic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka was one of those matches you wished would never end. Ricky Dimon and Hasan Murad recap the fourth-round epic.
Novak Djokovic d. Staniskas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10 – Australian Open fourth round
In the first Grand Slam of the year, Djokovic and Wawrinka treated the tennis world with a battle to remember for posterity.
Wawrinka was considered a heavy underdog, with a No. 17 ranking and a 2-11 lifetime record against Djokovic heading into the match, but he made his intentions clear right from the beginning. The Swiss swept aside the defending champ 6-1 in the opening set and raced to a 5-2 advantage in the second by virtue of stupendous shot-making. Despite the shocking proceedings, Djokovic’s resolve was unflinching. The top seed showed urgency in staging a faultless comeback and somehow he stole the second 7-5.
Djokovic took further control of the match by securing the third set 6-4. Just when it looked like it was going to be a routine four-set win for the three-time Aussie champion, Wawrinka displayed possibly the strongest mental fortitude of his career to clinch the fourth-set tiebreaker following a pulsating exchange of 21 grueling shots.
The world 15th seed injected another boost into his inspiring run when he opened the final set with a service break. Djokovic resisted Wawrinka’s onslaught of massive groundstrokes to break back and it was obvious Wawrinka was losing the battle of fitness, but his mental strength did not waver. Both men traded blows from the back of the court with laser-beam focus to display a breathtakingly-entertaining brand of power tennis.
After nearly one hour and 40 minutes of play in the final set alone, Wawrinka found himself serving to stay in the tournament at 10-11. What followed was the last but perhaps the most electrifying game of the match. A fearlessly-struck backhand down the line saved one match point for Wawrinka, but after a few minutes it was Djokovic’s resilient defense that marginally outshined Wawrinka’s vicious attacks. Fittingly, it ended with an outrageous 20-shot rally punctuated by a miraculous cross-court backhand pass just beyond the reach of a sprawled-out Wawrinka. Taking into account the circumstances, the clinching blow was easily one of the five best single shots of 2013.
“These are the matches that you live for, you practice for,” the Serb assured, punctuating the importance of the contest that had just concluded.
“I think it’s by far my best match I ever played, especially in five sets against the No. 1 player,” Wawrinka concurred.
A perfect epitome of modern-day tennis, the match was as riveting as one can get. The two warriors collectively hit 120 winners and 22 aces over the course of five hours and three minutes. Even though Wawrinka lost, it was an omen of what was to follow from him for the rest of the season—by the end of which he finished at a career-high ranking of No. 8 in the world.