3-time champ Novak Djokovic goes under at Australian Open
By DENNIS PASSA AP Sports Writer January 21, 2014 10:47AM
Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland throws a wristband to the spectators after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.(AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)
Updated: January 21, 2014 5:13PM
MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic continued an upsetting trend at the Australian Open. The three-time defending champion joined Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova as unexpected early departures from the season’s first major with a quarterfinal loss Tuesday night to Stanislas Wawrinka.
Djokovic came into the match with 28 consecutive wins since losing last year’s U.S Open final to Rafael Nadal, and 25 in a row at Melbourne Park since 2010.
But the figure that really mattered was 14 — the number of consecutive matches in which Djokovic had beaten Wawrinka back to 2007, including two five-set wins the last time they met in Grand Slam matches last year at the Australian and U.S Opens.
Djokovic held off Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set in a 5-hour, 2-minute fourth-rounder here last year — the longest Grand Slam match of the season.
All those streaks ended in a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 win Tuesday by Wawrinka, Roger Federer’s sometimes Swiss doubles partner and who is into the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
“Fourteen is enough,” Wawrinka said. “After losing two times against him in Grand Slam in five sets, I’m really happy to take that one.”
Federer, who will play Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in a quarterfinal on Wednesday, tweeted: “So deserving for Stan the man ...”
The match, which included a five-minute rain delay with Wawrinka serving at 5-5 in the deciding set, lasted exactly four hours and featured long rallies that tested the resolve, patience and shot-making ability of both players.
At the end, it was a mis-hit from Wawrinka on a service return that set up match point. Djokovic chased it to the net but his cross-court drop shot was too wide. He then missed a volley on match point.
“Didn’t want to let him win that one,” Warwinka said. “Got a little bit lucky in the last one. He missed easy shots. But in general in the fifth set I think I went for it.”
Djokovic was quick to praise Wawrinka, heading to his media interview obligations just minutes after the match ended.
“He took his opportunities. He deserved his big win today,” Djokovic said. “There’s nothing I can say. I gave it my best, I gave it my all. It wasn’t to be this time. He showed his mental strength and he deserved to win.”
After reaching the semifinals at back-to-back majors for the first time, the 28-year-old Wawrinka will be playing for a place in his first Grand Slam final — in 36 attempts dating back to 2005 — when he meets No. 7-seeded Tomas Berdych, who beat third-ranked David Ferrer 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Eugenie Bouchard is playing in just her fourth major, and already has advanced to the last four in the tournament. The 19-year-old Bouchard became the first Canadian to make the semifinals of the Australian Open — and only the second player from her country to make the semis of any Grand Slam — when she beat Ana Ivanovic 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. It was a big win, considering Ivanovic had knocked Williams out in the fourth round on Sunday.
Bouchard next plays No. 4-seeded Li Na on Thursday for a chance to reach the final. Li, the 2011 French Open champion and two-time Australian finalist, beat Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-2 in the first of the quarterfinals.
Despite the relative speed of her Grand Slam progression, Bouchard said she wasn’t surprised by her win.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was five years old and working my whole life for and sacrificing a lot of things for,” she said. “I always expect myself to do well. I’m just happy to have gone through this step. I’m not done.”
Victoria Azarenka, who is attempting to win her third consecutive title here, plays her quarterfinal match against Agnieszka Radwanska on Wednesday. Simona Halep will play Dominika Cibulkova in another quarterfinal.
The top half of the men’s draw plays its quarterfinals on Wednesday when top-ranked Rafael Nadal takes on 22-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Murray plays 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer.
The lopsidedness of the draw played out into the second week with three of the quarterfinalists in the top half — Federer, Nadal and Murray — combining for 32 Grand Slams. With Djokovic gone from the bottom half and only Wawrinka and Berdych remaining, the Grand Slam total from that side is zero.