Melbourne, Australia – Novak Djokovic's bid at a third consecutive Australian Open title remains alive after he survived Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in an epic fourth-round match that stretched into Monday morning.
Djokovic reached his 15th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10 victory at Rod Laver Arena.
Leading 4-3 in the fifth set, the Serbian star failed to capitalize on a break point as a result of Wawrinka's double fault. Djokovic then fought off four break points in the ninth game to go up 5-4. The 15th-seeded Wawrinka responded with an easy service game to level the set.
The combatants remained on serve until the 22nd game. Wawrinka saved two match points, but the top-seeded Djokovic sealed his 18th straight win in Melbourne by capping a long and scintillating rally with a cross-court backhander as Wawrinka came to the net.
"I feel sorry that one of us had to lose," said Djokovic, who is bidding to become the first three-peat champion in the Open Era at this major event, after the five-hour match. "The fact is that I haven't played nearly my best and I didn't feel well on the court in terms of rhythm and ball striking. But the credit to him, he made me run all over the court. He never gave me the same ball. He was aggressive from both sides. I didn't know what's coming up next. So I'm just really full of joy after this match."
Wawrinka had more winners (69-51) and aces (16-7) than Djokovic, but committed 93 unforced errors.
"At the end I was really, really close. For sure I'm really sad," said Wawrinka, who let a 6-1, 5-2 lead slip away before regrouping to force a decisive fifth set.
Djokovic and Wawrinka also met in the round of 16 at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Up next for Djokovic will be a much more rested Tomas Berdych. The fifth- seeded Czech knocked off South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (15-13).
Berdych is 1-11 all-time against the world No. 1 Djokovic.
Meanwhile, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro will meet in an all-Spanish quarterfinal after both advanced on Sunday.
The fourth-seeded Ferrer posted a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan. Ferrer, who advanced to his fifth straight Grand Slam quarterfinal, broke Nishikori 7-of-11 times.
"Today I played very good, one of the best matches on my career in the Australian Open," Ferrer said. "I'm very happy with my game. The result, it was in three sets, but the game, it was very, very difficult to beat Nishikori."
The No. 10 seed Almagro advanced when eighth-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic retired with a foot injury while Almagro was holding a 6-2, 5-1 lead. Almagro had lost in the fourth round in each of his last three years.