Wow, it's not often I post on matches where Federer hasn't taken part but I felt like this one deserved a post of it's own as fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka just went down 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5-7) 12-10 in the fifth to defending champion Novak Djokovic. It was a crazy match, lasted over 5 hours and could have easily gone either way.
Unfortunately I missed the opening set and a half but when I flicked onto the scores and saw Wawrinka had taken the first set 6-1 I was surprised to say the least. He was actually 5-2 up in the second set too and served for it only for Djokovic to hit back like he always seem to do and take it 7-5.
After that I thought it was pretty much game over for Wawrinka after he choked the second set away, he'd clearly started well and caught Djokovic off guard but normal service would resume. It did for a period as Djokovic took the third set 6-4 and looked as though he would just be able to pull away when it mattered.
The 4th set was another topsy turvy affair, Wawrinka missed a few break point opportunities and then had to call for the trainer out for a thigh injury but it didn't seem to effect his play. The resulting tie break was Wawrinka at his best again hitting backhand winners for fun and once he got the double mini break he never looked back taking the match into a decider.
I still made Djoker the favourite heading into the fifth but Wawrinka had the wind in his sails and broke immediately to gain the advantage. Of course, he didn't consolidate and Djokovic was back on level terms. This was the writing on the wall really for Stan here, you can't hand over your advantage like that and expect to win. It changes everything, he had the all important break but gave it straight back.
At 4-4 Wawrinka crafted a break point and he went for a big forehand return, it clipped the line but was called out. Stan asked Umpire Molina whether he should challenge and he said it was definitely out. People are in uproar about this but this is an example of a player mentally choking. Why trust the umpire to make a call for you? It is near suicide, you go with your instinct there not what somebody else tells you.
After that big moment I figured Djokovic would take it, he held serve to love 5 times after that and you just knew he was in the ascendancy whereas Wawrinka was fighting fatigue and having to serve to stay in the match time and time again. At 11-10, he saved 2 match points with some epic backhands but Djokovic completed the victory at the third time of asking with a cross court backhand pass.
I felt a little gutted for Wawrinka after he put in such a huge effort but he's just not got that killer instinct like the top guys. He had plenty of chances but after he handed the break back in the fifth he was always playing catch up. He played bravely to save match points but he needed to be the one creating the match points, not having to save them. There are positives here for him but ultimately he still came up short.
A little over the top?
Implications for Federer / Rest of the Draw
Obviously Djokovic is in the other half of the draw so providing they both get there Roger wouldn't meet him until the final but a match like this is a tough one to weigh up.
Prior to this I thought Djokovic was looking ominous but then he didn't look brilliant against Stepanek and now he had to dig real deep to see off Wawrinka to make the Quarter Finals. So now part of me thinks he's vulnerable. The other part of me thinks a match like this will be give him a ton of confidence that he can take with him right through to the final. After all he got outplayed in this match for large chunks it just boiled down to the fact he was the mentally tougher one when it counted and Wawrinka doesn't have that clutchness.
I don't think he will be tired physically in the slightest and luckily for Novak he has his pet dog in the next round Tomas Berdych. I give Berdych little chance in that match even though he defeated Kevin Anderson with ease earlier today.
I still expect Djokovic to make the final but that's where it gets interesting. Like I said he's not a complete lock for the title now. He'll take confidence from playing clutch tennis yet again when it mattered but today he showed his game isn't completely impenetrable. The GOAT has a good chance here if he can see off the challengers in front of him.
Will the egg make the difference?