2013 Match of the Year: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka, Australian Open

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.


10 Comments on 2013 Match of the Year: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka, Australian Open

  1. The stakes of this match just weren’t high enough for this to be the number 1 match of 2013. The added fact that djokovic was NID to win it despite the swings of momentum compounds to make this a poor choice as the top spot. The number 1 match of the year should have all 3 of the following:

    Incredible shotmaking: (djokovic/wawa = yes)

    Massive stakes/consequences of winning/losing: (djokovic/wawa = no)

    Genuine ambiguity with regard to who would win the match while it was being played: (djokovic/wawa = nope)

  2. this match had non-stop entertainment .Saying there was no ambiguity is easier now..there was definitely significant ambiguity during the fifth set, esp the first half. Sure, nadal-djoker semi had much more at stake and it would have been a worthy no.1 too.

  3. I didn’t see this match at the time. I was visiting my mother in Florida and it was a time when tennis was not a priority. Rafa not playing was part of it, but I watched slams when he was out for seven months. I was just focused on family. If I had seen the match, I would have definitely remembered it for sure!

    Just watching the highlights was enough to give me a real sense of the greatness of this match. I am wondering if this was the match where Stan was crying after it was over. I did try to catch some of the matches while I was on vacation and I seem to remember some clip I saw of Stan breaking down. I honestly wouldn’t blame him after putting it all on the line and producing some of his best tennis.

    Watching these highlights makes me appreciate how Stan was able to move on from this loss and have his best year. He was even ready for round two against Djoker at the USO in the semis.

    I have no problem with Ricky picking this match as his #1 of the year. We all have our opinions and there’s no right or wrong.

  4. reasonable post NNY ! I actually took a couple of days to choose between nadal-djo and djo-wawa lol…my verdict was nadal-djo but it i do think this match is almost equally worthy of being no.1

    • vamosrafa,

      I am glad to know that you picked the RG Rafa/Djoker semi over the AO Djoker/Wawa one. As I said, I never saw it so I wouldn’t have included it on my list. If I had seen it at the time, it would definitely have been on my list of top matches of the year.

      What about Djoker/Wawa Redux at the USO? How would you rank that match compared to their first one at the AO? Would you put that on your list of top ten matches?

      There was never any question for me as to what was my #1 match of the year. After having watched it again on the tennis channel’s replay of the entire 2013 RG, I am even more convinced that it was truly the best match of the year. I guess an argument could be made for Djoker/Wawa, but for the matches that I did watch, it had to be the RG semifinal.

  5. I am disappointed that Sergiy Stakhovsky’s victorious match against Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon is not among 10 matches of the year. SI named it as one of the 10 best GS matches of 2013.
    It was a sweet match! I laughed like Fed did at Rafa’s defeat in 2012. 😀

    • ^^^^

      Yes! Why wasn’t Stakhovsky’s great victory over Fed included in the top ten matches of the year. After all, it’s not every day that you see Fed get knocked out in the second round of Wimbledon.

      I didn’t realize that SI had it on their list of the 10 best matches of 2013.

      Oh and yes, I did laugh at Fed’s defeat just the way he laughed at Rafa’s defeat in 2012. What is that old saying – what goes around comes around? 🙂

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