It seems any match these days that goes the distance is automatically considered "a classic." A top champion gets shoved to the ropes and critics are quick to glorify what happened, win or lose, but on Sunday at Melbourne Park, Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka gave us what is sure to be the match of this Australian Open.
Djokovic is the two-time defending champion, attempting to become the first man in the Open era to win the Australian Open three times in a row. Wawrinka is the 15th ranked player in the field, hoping to just survive for as long as possible before going up against one of the big boys.
And survive he almost did. Djokovic dropped the first set in epic fashion before bouncing back to win to win the second 7-5 and the third 6-4. When that happens with a guy like Novak you can basically turn off the television and catch up on a few more hours of sleep, but Wawrinka wouldn't go away. The fourth set went to a tiebreaker that Wawrinka snagged 7-5 and here we were, in the fourth round of the tournament that Novak dominates wondering if the champion was going to be sent packing before the second week even started.
The fifth set is where the term "classic" is normally tagged. You can have a solid back and forth for four sets but normally guys like Djokovic and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal finish the job here in dominating fashion. But Sunday showed that Wawrinka wasn't going down without at least sending a message to the world that he can hang with these guys.
The match ended in a fifth set that took 1 hour, 44 minutes and went 22 games. Novak broke Wawrinka's serve in the final game with a backhand cross-court winner that ended the match 12-10 and had everyone in Melbourne buzzing despite the fact that it was already Monday morning.
It seems to happen every year for the winner of Grand Slams. At some point a guy is seeing the ball at a different level that day and you have to find a way to beat them. Tennis is one of those sports that the favorite normally always wins but that doesn't mean it can't take every ounce of effort do so. Wawrinka played out of his mind on Sunday and did everything he could to take down Djokovic. Sadly, everything he had was just a couple of games short of shocking the world. Now Novak can happily rest knowing that what I like to call his "smelling salt" match is over and now he can wake up and get ready for Tomas Berdych.
Maria Sharapova rolls over another opponent -- It's starting to get ridiculous how easy Sharapova is moving through her draw at the Australian Open. On Sunday, the former champion beat Kirsten Flipkens 6-1, 6-0 with the latter match being the fifth set in this tournament that Sharapova has won without her opponent snagging a single game. In four matches, Sharapova has dropped just five games and that includes a third round match against Venus Williams.
Sharapova will now face Ekaterina Makarova in her quarterfinal match, an opponent Sharapova has never lost to in four career meetings.
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