Melbourne: Novak Djokovic reached his fifth Australian Open final with a five-set win over defending champion Stan Wawrinka that fell flat compared with their previous encounters at Melbourne Park.
The top-ranked Djokovic finished over the top of Wawrinka in a seesawing 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 win on Friday night to set up a final against long-time friend and rival Andy Murray, a player he has beaten twice in the championship match in Australia.
Djokovic has a 100 percent winning record in finals at Melbourne Park, claiming his first Grand Slam title here in 2008 and winning three straight years from 2011 before his run was ended in the quarterfinals last year by Wawrinka.
“As it was the case last two years, we played five sets. I was ready for the battle,” Djokovic said. “We pushed each other to the limit.”
The previous three Grand Slam meetings between Djokovic and Wawrinka had gone five sets, including two at the Australian Open that lasted a combined nine hours. The Serbian player has now won 17 of their 20 career matches.
Djokovic won 12-10 in the fifth in the fourth round in 2013 that lasted five hours and two minutes—the fourth-longest match in Australian Open history—and Wawrinka won 9-7 in the fifth in the quarterfinals last year.
He now shares the record with Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg for reaching the most Australian finals in the Open era—Federer won four of his five and Edberg won twice.
Wawrinka made his career breakthrough here last year, when he beat Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal to claim his first Grand Slam title, but he hadn't been past the quarterfinals at a major since his return to Melbourne Park.
At times he got on top of Djokovic, who looked lethargic at times and didn't realize after winning the third set that he'd taken a 2-1 lead. But Djokovic kept his composure in the 3-hour, 30-minute match as Wawrinka blasted 42 winners but offset that with 69 unforced errors. The momentum shifted suddenly in three of the five sets, with both players struggling to turn service breaks into big leads.
“I think I played well up two sets to one and a break and then played a couple of loose games,” Djokovic said. “I allowed him to come back into the match and Stan is a quality player and he knows how to get into the court and use his opportunities.”
Sixth-seeded Murray, who has lost three Australian Open finals, moved into the championship match with a fiery four-set win over No. 7 Tomas Berdych on Thursday night.