Djokovic defeat delights Wawrinka
Stanislas Wawrinka turned the tables on Novak Djokovic in spectacular fashion to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Twelve months ago Wawrinka pushed Djokovic all the way to 12-10 in the fifth set in the fourth round in Melbourne and then lost a similar match in the semi-finals of the US Open.
But, after 14 consecutive defeats by the Serbian, Wawrinka triumphed 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7 to bring Djokovic's run of 25 consecutive wins at the tournament and 28 overall to a juddering halt.
The result also ended the three-time defending champion's run of 14 consecutive grand slam semi-finals, protecting the incredible mark of 23 set by Wawrinka's Swiss countryman Roger Federer.
Wawrinka said: "Last year I took a lot of confidence from those matches with Novak. I was really close. I was playing good. We always have some great battles.
"I came on the court with a lot of confidence in myself, knowing that if I play my best game, I always have a chance against him.
"He's so tough to beat. He's an amazing champion. He always fights. He always finds a solution.
"In the fourth set I think I was playing good and he won that set. So it was not easy to deal with that in the fifth set, especially against him.
"Last time he always found the solution against me in the fifth set. He was the better player. But not tonight."
The much-anticipated rematch looked set to be an anticlimax when Djokovic raced through the first set but Wawrinka regrouped and began to rip his one-handed backhand.
Suddenly the eighth seed was two sets to one up and it was Djokovic having to dig deep.
He did just that to level the match but he let an early break in the decider slip away and, after four hours, it was Wawrinka who took his first match point.
Next the 28-year-old will face seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who knocked out David Ferrer to make the semi-finals in Melbourne for the first time.
Wawrinka has won six of their last seven matches, and he said: "It's for sure a big chance.
"But Berdych is playing well since the beginning of the tournament. He's going to be a tough player to beat. He has already made one final in one slam. He's already made the semi-finals in every grand slam. It's going to be a tough battle."
Djokovic was magnanimous in defeat and gracious in his praise of Wawrinka.
He said: "I think it was quite even. From the start I played better. I had some opportunities early in the second to get the break and I didn't use that.
"He served extremely well from the beginning to the end. Every time he was in trouble, he was coming up with big serves. He took his opportunities.
"He deserved this win. I congratulate him absolutely. I gave it my best. I gave it all. I tried to come out as the winner. I tried to fight until the last point as I did last year.
"It's the same court, but it wasn't to be this time."
The result was certainly a surprise but even more so the manner in which it ended, with Djokovic placing a simple volley wide.
"I can say I was lucky with some shots last year in our match," said the Serbian.
"This time it was him that had a little bit of luck at 30-30 with the mis-hit return. Then an easy volley for me on match point.
"But this is sport. He showed his mental strength and he deserved to win."
The decision to serve and volley on match point smacked of a Boris Becker tactic, and it was certainly an inauspicious start to their partnership.
"I'm satisfied with the things that we've been talking about and working on," said Djokovic of his new head coach.
"Of course, it's unfortunate that we finished the tournament in the quarter-finals. But it's the beginning of the season and we'll see what's coming next."
Berdych joined Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray in completing his set of grand slam semi-finals with his 6-1 6-4 2-6 6-4 win over Ferrer.
The Czech said: "It's a really great feeling. There were some special moments which went well together in this match, making it for the first time here to the semis, winning my first match on Rod Laver after all these years. It's been a very special match to me."