By Randy Walker
In professional tennis where matches are decided by the slimmest of margins, two crucial shots on the last two points of the match were the difference in Novak Djokovic’s 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 upset loss to Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
With the three-time defending champion Djokovic serving down 7-8 in the final set, the Serb hits a strong body serve that Wawrinka is able to negotiate back with an awkwardly struck cross-court inside-out backhand that lands just over the net. Rushing to the net to retrieve the shot, Djokovic attempts a sharply-angled cross court drop shot, but misses it wide, giving the No. 8-seeded Wawrinka match point. Djokovic then, for the first time in the match, attempts a surprise serve-and-volley tactic and fails miserably, floating a shoulder-high forehand volley wide, giving Wawrinka the upset victory.
ESPN2 tennis analyst Darren Cahill discussed the last two points of the match at its conclusion, describing Wawrinka’s serve return at 30-30 as hitting “more frame than string” producing a “wicked spin” that may have affected Djokovic missing the angle winner attempt. Of Djokovic’s match point, Cahill said “the serve-and-volley, that was maybe a bit of a panic move.”
There was much on the line for the No. 2-seeded Djokovic, who saw many impressive streaks come to an end with the loss, including:
- His 28-match winning streak since he lost the U.S. Open final to Rafael Nadal
- His 25-consecutive match victory streak at the Australian Open since he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the 2010 quarterfinals
- His streak of reaching the semifinals of 14 straight semifinals at major championships
- His streak of 13 straight wins over top 10 players
- His 14-straight victories over Wawrinka
The match comes exactly one year and 22 hours from when the same two players engaged in another epic match on Rod Laver Arena in the fourth round where Djokovic prevailed 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 and analyzed here: http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/8865
Steve Flink, tennis historian and author of the book “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time,” available here http://www.amazon.com/The-Greatest-Tennis-Matches-Time/dp/0942257936/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390314557&sr=8-1&keywords=the+greatest+tennis+matches+of+all+time described Wawrinka’s upset as “a mighty accomplishment.”
“For him to topple Djokovic this time after 14 losses in a row against a six time major champion going for a fourth Australian Open title in a row was a mighty accomplishment,” said Flink. “The match touched greatness but it was not an epic….It was a terrific match but not an all time classic because the level of play fluctuated considerably, particularly Djokovic’s performance. He played an excellent first set and then raised his game and returned much better late in the fourth set and early in the fifth, but he was strangely vulnerable in many ways. Wawrinka, however, was outstanding in the second and third sets and very gritty in fighting back from a break down in the fifth.”
Wawrinka advances into the semifinals of a major championship for a second-straight event after losing to Djokovic – also in five-sets – in the US Open semifinals last September. He will have a strong chance at reaching his first major final as he will face No. 7 Tomas Berdych in the semifinals after the Czech defeated No. 3 seed David Ferrer in the quarterfinals.