Novak has won his 18th straight match in Melbourne, battling past Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in the fourth round on Sunday.
Nole came through his toughest test so far at the fist major event of the season. He got a huge scare from Wawrinka before hanging on to win in the 22nd game of the fifth set to advance to the last eight in 5 hours and 2 minutes.
“It’s really hard to find the words to describe the feeling,” an exhausted Novak said courtside. “He deserved equally to be a winner of this match. I give him a lot of credit. He showed his qualities. He was the aggressive player on the court. He was playing well, mixing it up, using the right tactics and serving really well. I was just trying to hang in there and fight and give every drop of energy.”
Wawrinka looked sharp and confident at the beginning of the match, showing his full repertoire of shots. He broke three times to claim the opening set 6-1 in 25 minutes.
Novak found himself a set and 5-2 down, but clawed his way back. Stan was serving for the second set at 5-3, but Nole converted his break point opportunity and consolidated the break to level at 5-all. He wrapped up the set 7-5 in 60 minutes winning five games in a row.
Players exchanged breaks at the start of the third set. Four errors in a row allowed Djokovic back into the set and he did not waste the opportunity, a forehand winner giving him a second break soon after and with it the set.
The match was suddenly slipping away from Wawrinka, and Djokovic drove the point home by taking the third with 6-4 a stunning rally that he dominated on the forehand.
The fourth set was balanced. Both Djokovic and Wawrinka held serve until the tiebreak, which the Swiss dominated. He used his third set point to level the match.
Neither were able to hold their first service games in the deciding fifth set. Novak failed to convert a break point in the eighth game, and had to save four break points in the next. The match then stayed on serve until the 22nd game of the set, where Nole held three break/match points before finally sealing the win with a cross-court backhand.
“It was one of the longest, most interesting, and most exciting matches I played in my career. It could have gone either way and I am thrilled to be through,” Djokovic added. “He had a lot of chances to win. All the credit to him, I feel sorry that one of us had to lose.”
“Even though I was 6-1 5-2 down, I believed that I can come back if I am two sets down. I’ve been in those situations before. I was just outplayed by my opponent. He was better on the court for the first hour and a half, no question about it.
“In these circumstances, when you’re not playing the way you want to play, you just try to fight and hope for the best.”
Post-match press conference here
Next opponent is Tomas Berdych.