In certainly one of the best matches of the tournament so far, Novak Djokovic overcame a red hot Stanislas Wawrinka in five spectacular sets of tennis to advance to the quarter finals. The final score line was 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(5), 12-10 lasting over 5 hours.
Stan ‘the Man’ was in superb form ripping his famous backhand down the line and cross court for winners. His forehand wasn’t shabby either and his serve packed a punch. But Djokovic is the world number one and he showed us just why, as he displayed his now trademark mental toughness by hanging in there, weathering Stan’s initial storm and then turning the tables to get the lead in the match. He didn’t panic when he lost the fourth set tie break and then the opening game of the fifth set either. Instead he broke back immediately and then somehow found a way to hold serve in the 9th game of the set saving numerous break points in the process. But for me, the match was all about Wawrinka and I was gutted to see him walk away dejected after coming up short.
I didn’t plan on watching this match before it began as I was expecting a straight forward victory for Djokovic (he is 11-2 and had won their last 10 meetings). I was on twitter and read that Stan broke Djokovic to start off the match. I honestly thought that was a typo! 😀
But it wasn’t and Stan was in rip roaring form. He soon got another break and took the set 6-1. I was shocked but was waiting for the inevitable Nole comeback. And on cue he broke Stan to start the second set. But Stan immediately returned the favour and soon got another break to go 5-2 up. Wawrinka was on the cusp of taking a two sets lead and while that was not totally insurmountable (because it is Djokovic after all), it would be very difficult for Nole to comeback against this red hot Swiss.
Djokovic had made a career out of making improbable comebacks and he did it again as he roared back by winning 5 games straight and taking the second set. I thought Wawrinka’s best chance was over and now Djokovic would take the match as expected. For most of the next 2 sets, it seemed that way only but Wawrinka refused to yield in the fourth as he kept holding serve to force a tie break. Again I thought Djokovic would win it easily. Hmmm, writing this post match reaction now, it seems I really didn’t have much hope for Wawrinka. But the truth is, we all have seen how the great players like Roger, Rafa & Nole come out of these situations victorious, time and again. Its hard to have true hope when you have so much evidence to the contrary.
But Wawrinka surprised many by taking the set on the back of some bruisingly powerful shot making to level the match two sets a piece. This match was reaching epic proportions and no one was going anywhere. There was a slight worry as Stan seemed to be cramping up and was frequently stretching his legs and called for the trainer as well in the fourth set. But that didn’t affect him on court as he broke Nole to open the fifth and final set. But Novak being Novak broke back immediately, again, and then held serve on a equally tough third game. What probably should have been 3-0 to Wawrinka was now 2-1 to Nole. Both players held serve until the last game of the match but we wouldn’t have got that far had Wawrinka challenged a line call on break point.
It was the ninth game of the set and after an epic struggle, the Swiss was standing on break point. His shot was called long by the linesperson but everyone outside that court thought it was in, which would have given Stan the decisive break! Incredibly he didn’t go for the challenge; rather surprisingly he checked with the chair umpire and moved on to the next point. He should have taken a risk there with the challenge just like how he was playing the whole match. Instead we were all left pondering what could have been.
Both guys were visibly slowing down as the effects of this long, intense match began to show. Wawrinka’s leg and Novak’s back were clearly troubling the two. But these two gladiators went on, largely untroubled on their service games. Until the 22nd game of the set, that is. After being 40-15 up, Novak got himself back into the game and then got match points. By now, Wawrinka was effectively on one leg and soldiering on. He saved the first two with some gusty play but on the third, Djokovic threaded a backhand cross court pass for the Game, Set & Match that left Wawrinka on his knees at the net. Novak Djokovic had pulled the rabbit out of the hat once again with this victory!
Their post match reactions were telling. Djokovic ripped off his shirt screaming on a sense of relief while Wawrinka futilely struggled to hold back tears of defeat as he left the court to a rousing reception. Stan didn’t deserve to lose this match as it was he who was dictating play by taking risks with his bold, fearless display of aggression. However, tennis & life are cruel and sometimes you end up with nothing to show for you efforts, however herculean it might have been.
I don’t have any increase in respect for Wawrinka after this match but that is only because I already respected him before this match. What has changed though is that I am now a much bigger fan of him and I am sure he has won countless fans worldwide with this super spectacular display today, not only for himself but for the sport of tennis as well. Good Luck for the rest of the season, Stan! 🙂