MELBOURNE, Australia — The opponent was different, the match three rounds earlier. Still, the result gave Novak Djokovic a familiar feeling, and another chance to rip off his shirt in celebration.
Djokovic needed just over 5 hours to beat Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in a fourth-round match Sunday night at the Australian Open, on the same court where he needed 5:53 to beat Rafael Nadal in last year’s final.
“I just had flashback of 2012,” Djokovic said. “It was maybe 45 minutes less this match than the one 12 months ago, but still it was still as exciting. I tried to enjoy the moment and couldn’t ask for more. What a match point ... unbelievable.”
He wasn’t exaggerating about the match point. On his third attempt to end it, his backhand cross-court shot zipped past the valiant Wawrinka, who, Djokovic conceded, had outplayed him for most of the night.
Djokovic will next play No. 5 Tomas Berdych, who beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (13).
Fourth-seeded David Ferrer won 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 over No. 16 Kei Nishikori of Japan to set up a quarterfinal against fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who was leading 6-2, 5-1 when No. 8 Janko Tipsaveric retired from their fourth-round match.
The Djokovic-Wawrinka match overshadowed Maria Sharapova’s accomplishment earlier in the day.
Sharapova advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kirsten Flipkens in another impressive display – last year’s French Open champion has lost just five games through four rounds, breaking the Australian Open mark of eight held previously by eventual champions Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.
She next plays fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who beat fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-4. Sharapova defeated Makarova in the quarterfinals here last year on her way to the final, which she lost to Victoria Azarenka.
Li Na, who reached the final here in 2011 and won the French Open later that year, saved a set point in the tiebreaker before beating Julia Goerges 7-6 (6), 6-1. She’ll play No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat No. 13 Ana Ivanovic 6-2, 6-4 for her 13th consecutive win. Radwanska won the Auckland and Sydney titles before coming to Melbourne.
On Monday, Roger Federer plays Milos Raonic, and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray faces Gilles Simon. Azarenka, Serena Williams and fellow American Sloane Stephens also have their fourth-round matches.
Thy will have a tough time matching the spectacle of Sunday’s late-night encounter.
Djokovic had beaten Wawrinka — the perennial No. 2 among Swiss tennis players to 17-time major winner Roger Federer — in their 10 previous matches. He hadn’t lost a head-to-head since 2006 and had won 11 straight sets between them.
Wawrinka stunned the top-ranked Djokovic with three service breaks in the first set and had that 5-2 lead in the second before the 25-year-old Serb rallied by winning six consecutive games. But just as Djokovic seemed to be taking control, Wawrinka launched his own comeback to win a long tiebreaker and force a fifth set.
Djokovic got to serve first in the fifth, giving him a psychological edge as long as he held his serve.
Wawrinka had game point in the 22nd game but let Djokovic get on a roll. He saved his first match point with a service winner, then saved another two minutes later.
At 1:40 a.m. local time, Wawrinka was whacking his head with the racket and biting the ball after giving Djokovic another match point.
Moments later, he was slumped on the court, exhausted. Djokovic raised both arms, walked to the net and embraced his beaten rival, then pulled of his shirt and flexed.
‘’Give him credit, he made me run all over the court,” Djokovic said. “He never gave me the same ball. He was aggressive from both sides. I didn’t know what was coming next.”