Day 7 was something like ordinary days when we just saw top seeded players Tommy Berdych (5), Nicolas Almagro (10), and David Ferrer (4) crushing their respective opponents in straight sets. Nothing unusual one might say, except that the women’s department was a little bit different. Agnieszka Radwanska (4), Na Li (6), and Maria Sharapova (2) came through easy wins over their respective opponents. The big upset came though when Makarova beat the 5th seeded Angeligue Kerber of Germany. Indeed, Day 7 was jampacked with actions from the world’s top tennis players as we saw them cruising through past their respective opponents in fashionable wins so-to-speak.
But leave it to Novak Djokovic to be involved in another dramatic spectacle. In one of the most thrilling contests played at Melbourne Park in the past decade, the two-time defending champion edged an inspired Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6; 7-5; 6-4; 6-7(5); 12-10 in a five hour and two minute marathon to move into the quarterfinals.
It was a heroic effort by both men in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena that ended at 1.41 on Monday morning. The top seed managed to repel the pumped-up Swiss, who dictated play for much of the match with brilliant shot-making.
But while Wawrinka wowed the spectators with his wondrous one-handed backhand, booming serves and rolling topspin forehands, it was Djokovic who once again dug deep on the court where he has had the most success.
On Sunday night and Monday morning in Melbourne, Wawrinka was that elite player, and deserved just as much attention as his more famous countryman, Roger Federer.
“I always knew he has a quality,” Djokovic said.
“He has ability to beat the best players in the world, and he has proven that on several occasions on different surfaces. He’s using that power and the serve. He’s really moving well over the court. He’s reading the game. So he came up with great tactics today.”
“I think it’s by far my best match I ever play, especially in five sets against the No. 1 player,” said the 15th-seeded Wawrinka.
“I just had flashback of 2012 in the finals,” Djokovic said. “It was maybe 45 minutes less this match than the one 12 months ago, but still it was still as exciting. I tried to perform my best, enjoy the moment, be in the present, and couldn’t ask for more. What a match point. Unbelievable.”
Djokovic will play fifth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, and believes he’s in good enough shape to make another title run.
“I’ve been in those situations before,” he said.
And yes, we just saw the heart of a champion in Djokovic’s ability to pull through in that exciting but difficult match. Honestly, I thought I was seeing a preview to the championship match already.
But Wawrinka’s ability to wow the crowd merits no less an accolade. I just saw the tremendous improvement in the man’s smashing serves, master ground strokes and what a fighting spirit.
Djokovic was no doubt the world’s no. 1 tennis player today but I would add a little bit of luck was with him in winning that epic match.