Djokovic braced for another test
Novak Djokovic is prepared for another epic when he plays Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.
Their fourth-round clash at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, which Djokovic won 12-10 in the fifth set after five hours, was arguably the match of the season.
It was also the match that convinced Wawrinka he belonged with the likes of Djokovic at the top of the game.
He went on to have the best season of his career, beating Andy Murray at the US Open to reach his first grand slam semi-final, where he again pushed Djokovic to five sets.
"I have to be ready to play another 12-10 in the fifth like last year," said Djokovic. "I know that he's playing the tennis of his life in the last 15 months.
"He's a top-10 player now. He's established himself at the top level. He won against some top guys in the big tournaments.
"He is confident. You can feel that mentally, when he comes to the court, he believes in himself more. He can win against the top guys in the later stages of events.
"So you cannot expect a clear favourite in that match."
Djokovic is wrong about that, for only if he played Rafael Nadal would he not be the clear favourite.
The three-time defending champion made it 28 straight wins since losing to Nadal in the US Open final and 24 in a row at Melbourne Park with a crushing 6-3 6-0 6-2 victory over Italian showman Fabio Fognini on Sunday.
After Nadal swatted aside Gael Monfils the previous night, it was just the message Djokovic would have wanted to send to his rivals.
He said: "I felt from the start that I've been elevating my game as the tournament is going on. Every match is better.
"The general feeling on the court, all the shots, using the court position really well, being aggressive, playing my style of the game.
"That's what I've done really well today overall from the first to the last point. I haven't allowed my opponent to come back to the match.
"Mentally I was there. I was tough. I was focused. I feel great about myself in this moment.
"There is this confidence that I carry from many wins that I had in the last two months of the 2013 season, and I started off this season in a good style. I'm trying to keep it up."
Djokovic was overshadowed on Sunday by another Serbian, Ana Ivanovic, who caused a sensation by upsetting Serena Williams in the preceding match.
The pair grew up playing tennis together in Belgrade, and Djokovic said: "I'm very happy for her.
"She must be feeling very confident. Hopefully she's going to carry that confidence from today's win and it's going to help her to come back to where she deserves to be - top five in the world."
Wawrinka won the battle of the one-handed backhands to beat Spain's Tommy Robredo 6-3 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/5) and reach the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the second time.
Eighth seed Wawrinka was given a walkover in the third round after Vasek Pospisil pulled out, and he said: "It was good to have a tough match against Tommy and I'm really happy to get through."
On facing Djokovic again, the Swiss number two said: "I have to play better. They were two tough matches. I was playing really good but we all know how good Novak is, especially in grand slams.
"I didn't find the solution yet but I'm still trying, I'm still trying to improve my game and I will try my best in the next one."
Third seed David Ferrer made his ninth straight grand slam quarter-final, coming from a set down to defeat unorthodox German Florian Mayer 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 6-2 6-1.
In the last eight he will meet seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson for the fifth time in the last nine grand slams 6-2 6-2 6-3.