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 more than five 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 match.
“He came up with great tactics today,” Djokovic said. “He didn’t give me a lot of the same rhythm that I could get into the match. He was the one being in charge. I was passive.”
On the women’s side, after twice failing to win her breakthrough major as the No. 1-ranked woman at the Australian Open, Caroline Wozniacki is expected to drop out of the top 10 after a fourth-round loss to a resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova early today.
Wozniacki, the No. 10 seed for the tournament, had the top ranking for the 2011 and 2012 editions of the season’s first major, but lost in semifinals two years ago and the quarterfinals last year.
Her 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 defeat to two-time Grand Slam winner Kuznetsova in the Round of 16 this time follows back-to-back first-round exits at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Unseeded Kuznetsova is moving in the other direction, after entering the tournament ranked No. 75. She’s on a comeback from a knee injury that kept her out of the last U.S. Open.
The 27-year-old Russian moved into the quarterfinals and will next face either No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka or Elena Vesnina.
Djokovic’s win was his 18th in a row at Melbourne Park after winning the past two Australian titles and advanced the Serbian star to the quarterfinals of his 15th consecutive major tournament.
Wawrinka, who had been receiving treatment to his upper leg muscles from late in the fourth set, said he would take more positives than negatives out of the match.
He led 5-2 in the second set after outplaying Djokovic in the first.
“For sure, I think the best match I have ever played,” Wawrinka said. “I fought like a dog like always. At 4-4 in the final set, I thought I might have won the match, but he was just better.”
Djokovic will next play No. 5 Tomas Berdych, who needed five match points in the tiebreaker before beating 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.
The Djokovic win and Wozniacki loss overshadowed Maria Sharapova’s accomplishment.
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.
“A couple that I’ve won, I felt like I was playing great from the beginning and I was able to carry that through the whole tournament,” said Sharapova, who won titles in 2004 at Wimbledon, 2006 at the U.S. Open and 2008 in Australia before completing her career Grand Slam with a victory at last year’s French Open.
“Well, I’m certainly happy to be playing this well but ... it only gets tougher from here,” said Sharapova, who is playing her first tournament of 2013 after withdrawing from a warm-up event at Brisbane because of an injured right collarbone.