Australian Open semifinals: Djokovic edges Wawrinka after another marathon clash
Top seed Novak Djokovic ended Stan Wawrinka's title defence on Friday with another five-set clash to book a third final showdown with Andy Murray at the Australian Open.
Though not quite the level of their thrilling marathons at the last two tournaments, the grinding 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0 win under the lights of Rod Laver Arena was riven by tension until the final one-sided set.
Both players had their chances, with Djokovic fluffing his lines when 2-0 up and closing in on victory in the fourth set.
Wawrinka clawed his way back, breaking the Serb and saving three break points with some brilliant play before roaring on to force a fifth set.
Fourth seed Wawrinka had a chance to break Djokovic in the opening game of the decider, but blasted a backhand long.
From there he promptly crumbled.
With Wawrinka double-faulting twice to gift Djokovic the break, the steely-eyed Serb marched on, setting up match point with a searing backhand down the line and closing it out when his opponent struck his 69th unforced error.
Though having played far from his best tennis, Djokovic will bid to become the first man in the professional era to win five titles at Melbourne Park on Sunday when he faces Murray, who he defeated in the final in 2011 and 2013.
For all the action so far, the final set turned out to be a completely one-sided affair as Djokovic seals the fifth set to take the match. Djokovic 6 Wawrinka 0
Djokovic keeps the serve but not before some tough time from his opponent. He is just one game away from entering the final. Djokovic 5 Wawrinka 0
FIFTH SET: DJOKOVIC 6 WAWRINKA 0
BREAK! Wawrinka is finding the going tough at the moment. Leading 40-30 he gives away three crucial points to give the advantage to Djokovic as the Serb wins to take a big lead. Djokovic 4 Wawrinka 0
Djokovic looking strong as he holds his serve to take a fine advantage. It's hard work for Wawrinka. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 0
BREAK! Bad serves from Wawrinka gives Djokovic a 0-30 advantage and then 15-40. With two breakpoints, Djokovic misses the first one but fights hard to take the important break. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 0
Wawrinka is giving Djokovic a tough time. It looks like Djokovic is slowly wearing out as Wawrinka pushes the game to deuce. After a long battle Djokovic manages to hold on. Djokovic 1 Wawrinka 0
FOURTH SET: DJOKOVIC 4 WAWRINKA 6
No problems for Wawrinka as he seals the fourth set to push it to the decider. Djokovic 4 Wawrinka 6
Djokovic keeps his serve as Wawrinka serves for the set. Djokovic 4 Wawrinka 5
Wawrinka in total control as he quickly finishes off his service game to take the important lead. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 5
Some stunning tennis from Wawrinka as he forces a break at a very crucial time. Djokovic is completely dejected. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 4
Djokovic gives Wawrinka a tough time but the Swiss still manages keep the serve. The battle is getting intense. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 3
Djokovic has an easy one this time as he keeps his serve. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 2
Wawrinka is stretched to the limits but still manages to hold on to his serve. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 2
BREAK! Wawrinka is not letting it go easily as he gets back strongly to take a two breakpoint advantage. An unforced error meant Wawrinka gets back the break. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 1
BREAK! Wawrinka struggling at the moment as Djokovic races to 0-30 lead. Wawrinka fights back to level as the game reaches deuce. But Djokovic proves to be too strong as the Serb wins the crucial break. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 0
Djokovic makes a strong start to the fourth set as he holds on to it comfortably. Djokovic 1 Wawrinka 0
THIRD SET: DJOKOVIC 6 WAWRINKA 4
Djokovic puts up a strong fight as he seals the third set in style. Wawrinka errors at crucial time to hand over the game. Djokovic 6 Wawrinka 4
Djokovic serves well to seal it comfortably. Djokovic 5 Wawrinka 4
No problem for Wawrinka as well as four good serves meant he pockets the game. Djokovic 4 Wawrinka 4
It's an easy one for Djokovic as he does not drop a single point to keep his serve. Djokovic 4 Wawrinka 3
Great battle as Djokovic does not let it go easy taking it to 30-all. But Wawrinka is too strong for him as he holds on. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 3
BREAK! Wawrinka suddenly emerges on the top as he seals a triple breakpoint advantage and wins the first one to force a break. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 2
Djokovic giving a tough time to Wawrinka Pushes the game to deuce before Wawrinka manages to hold on to his serve. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 1
Djokovic holds on but not before Wawrinka gives him some anxious moments. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 0
BREAK! Djokovic comes back sharply to earn a double break point and hold on to it to take an early lead. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 0
Wawrinka looks to be in a different league as he quickly earns a breakpoint. But an unforced error from Wawrinka meant it's deuce. Intense battle continues before Djokovic manages to hold on. Djokovic 1 Wawrinka 0
SECOND SET: WAWRINKA 6 DJOKOVIC 3
Brilliant work from Wawrinka as he levels to take the second set. Wawrinka 6 Djokovic 3
Djokovic does not drop a sweat to keep his serve but it's Wawrinka who will be serving for the second set. Wawrinka 5 Djokovic 3
Djokovic does not let it go easily. Despite a 40-30 advantage, Wawrinka loses the crucial point as the game heads to deuce. He gets his composure on time to pack off the next two points and hold on to the crucial game. Wawrinka 5 Djokovic 2
BREAK! Djokovic's attempt to come closer to the net is answered with equal grit with Wawrinka getting some stunning winners. He takes one breakpoint advantage. Djokovic gives it up easy with a double fault. Wawrinka 4 Djokovic 2
Some fine rallies dominated by Wawrinka. Djokovic does get close winning two points but Wawrinka holds on. Wawrinka 3 Djokovic 2
Djokovic moving around well giving no room to Wawrinka to dominate. He is frequenting to the net that's proving to be an advantage. Wawrinka 2 Djokovic 2
Wawrinka going good at the moment. He needs one crucial break early on if he were to keep this set. Wawrinka 2 Djokovic 1
Easy one for Djokovic. Takes four straight points to keep his serve. Wawrinka 1 Djokovic 1
Too many errors from Wawrinka as Djokovic races to a double breakpoint advantage in the first game of the second set. The Swiss regains himself to win a couple of points to take it to deuce. Good serves ensures he holds serve. Wawrinka 1 Djokovic 0
FIRST SET: DJOKOVIC 7 WAWRINKA 6
An error-prone Wawrinka throws away the tiebreak easily as Djokovic wraps the tiebreak losing just a point to win the first set. Djokovic 7 Wawrinka 6
Some powerful backhand winners and serves from Wawrinka meant he keeps the serve winning four straight points. It's tiebreak. Djokovic 6 Wawrinka 6
No much fuss there as Djokovic keeps his serve not losing a point. Another crucial game for the Serb. Djokovic 6 Wawrinka 5
Djokovic eyes to wrap the set early and surges ahead with a double setpoint advantage. Wawrinka saves both including one with an ace. Then serves two successive aces to hold serve. Djokovic 5 Wawrinka 5
Djokovic steps up the gas and looks dominating as he comfortably wraps his serve. Djokovic 5 Wawrinka 4
BREAK! Djokovic fights back with some impressive rallies to immediately lead 0-40 taking a triple breakpoints advantage. Wins the first one to level games. Djokovic 4 Wawrinka 4
BREAK! Intriguing battle between the two as Wawrinka holds forte to earn a double breakpoints advantage. He forces Djokovic to commit an error as Wawrinka surges ahead. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 4
Djokovic looks to dominate to take a quick 0-30 lead. But Wawrinka is quick to take control with some impressive backhand shots as he pushes it to deuce and then holds serve. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 3
It's all going easy for Djokovic sealing another game without much fuss. Drops just a point on his way to take the game. Djokovic 3 Wawrinka 2
Djokovic attempts to break in to Wawrinka's serve but is not lucky winning just one point. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 2
Service dominating the match so far with not much of rallies to watch. Djokovic keeps his serve. Djokovic 2 Wawrinka 1
Wawrinka replies with equal intensity early on as he takes four straight points to level it. Djokovic 1 Wawrinka 1
Easy start for Djokovic keeping his serve and dropping just a single point. Djokovic 1 Wawrinka 0
Djokovic and Wawrinka are in the middle warming up. After epic marathon matches the crowd can certainly expect another cracker of a contest here.
Top seed Novak Djokovic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka will brace for another epic clash at the Australian Open on Friday as they bid for a place in the final with Andy Murray.
Serb Djokovic and Swiss Wawrinka's five-set marathons at Melbourne Park in 2013 and 2014 were arguably the most thrilling matches at both tournaments, with the victors going on to hoist the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup as champions.
Friday's 'Showdown III' promises to be another engrossing spectacle and could prove equally defining for the tournament.
Both players have been in ominous form, Wawrinka humbling US Open finalist Kei Nishikori in straight sets in his previous match and Djokovic doling out the same treatment to highly-rated Canadian Milos Raonic.
Losing to Djokovic, perhaps even more than beating him, was career-defining for Wawrinka, who wept bitter tears after being edged 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5) 12-10 in the fourth round of the 2013 tournament, his 11th straight defeat to the Serb.
Wawrinka said he cried because he felt he could not have played any better and still lost. Djokovic would go on to notch his third straight Australian Open title.
The Swiss lost another five-setter to Djokovic at the US Open in their next meeting and further losses at regular tournaments, but he was a raging ball of fire when he met him again in the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park last year.
In a nerve-jangling match of the highest quality, Wawrinka bluntly refused to be beaten and Djokovic was the first to wobble, pushing a regulation volley into the tramlines to lose 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7.
The victory generated enough belief for Wawrinka, long stuck in the shadow of compatriot Roger Federer, to go on and win his maiden grand slam.
He became the first player to break the grand slam cartel of Federer, Rafa Nadal, Djokovic and Murray since Juan Martin del Potro's shock 2009 US Open win over Federer.
As champions tend to, Djokovic recovered from the loss to win his seventh grand slam title at Wimbledon and finished the year on top again.
He remains hot favourite to take back the throne at Melbourne Park but knows Wawrinka has the game and the composure when the stakes are raised deep into a fifth set.
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