MELBOURNE, Australia – Milos Raonic persevered with his serve-and-volley game plan, holding firm even in the deciding set against Stan Wawrinka after the 2014 Australian Open champion had rallied from two sets down to force a fifth.
It paid off for Raonic, who beat Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-3 on Monday to secure a spot in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
It was his first win in five matches against French Open champion Wawrinka, the only man who was able to beat top-ranked Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam match last year.
It was Raonic's first win on Rod Laver Arena, too, "so that's a nice plus."
The 25-year-old Canadian is into the quarterfinals for the fourth time at the majors, including a loss her last year to Djokovic. Next up, he'll face No. 23 Gael Monfils, who reached the last eight in Australia for the first time in 11 trips with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) win over Andrei Kuznetsov.
Raonic and Wawrinka were both on seven-match winning streaks entering the fourth round, both having won titles leading into the season's first major. Raonic won in Brisbane, beating Roger Federer in the final, and Wawrinka in Chennai.
And Wawrinka was on a roll, having come back from two sets down six previous times in majors, and having the momentum in the third and fourth sets until his attempted passing shot landed long in the sixth game of the fifth, giving Raonic the decisive break.
For Raonic, it was vindication that things were working.
"I got to try to dictate, try to find my way forward and keep him out of rhythm," he said.
The difference this season may be the influence of former No. 1-ranked Carlos Moya, who joined Raonic's coaching team for 2016.
"I think it's just about a calm, and understanding how I can be more efficient with my game," Raonic said when asked what Moya could bring to his game. "Today was a good example of that."
Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka returned to the quarterfinals, beating Barbaro Strycova 6-2, 6-4 in the fourth round and then asking the crowd for the result of an NFL game.
"Can somebody please tell me, did Broncos win?" she said, taking over her on-court TV interview. When she heard Denver had beaten the New England Patriots 20-18 in the AFC championship, she shouted "Yesss!!" — stepping back and raising both arms, "I'm so happy now."
Peyton Manning's Broncos will face Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers in the 50th Super Bowl. Azarenka has already shown some allegiance to Newton, doing her version of the "dab" in her victory celebrations.
Told the Panthers were well ahead of the Cardinals in the NFC decider, Azarenka said "Well then, it's going to be my dream final, I can't wait to see that."
Azarenka is coming off two injury-interrupted seasons, but is returning to the kind of form that took her to the No. 1-ranked and back-to-back Australian Open titles in 2012 and '13.
She won the Brisbane International leading into the first major of the season, and dropped only five games in her first three rounds at Melbourne Park. Strycova, who beat third-ranked Garbine Muguruza in the third round, took six games off Azarenka.
"She's such a tough opponent. I'm just so happy I went through," she said. "I played smart, I played aggressive, I took my opportunities and I really kept my composure."
Next up she faces No. 7 Angelique Kerber, who beat fellow German Annika Beck 6-4, 6-0 in the preceding match on Rod Laver Arena.
Kerber, who saved a match point in her first-round win over Misaki Doi, is into the quarterfinals for the first time in Australia.