A tired and emotional Novak Djokovic told a courtside interviewer that “he doesn’t have the words to describe that match” after a gruelling, exciting and nail-biting 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5) 12-10 victory over Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
After five hours of world class tennis and the constant risk of a potential upset, it would be understandable if the defending champion did not have the mental capacity to answer such questions mere moments after putting the winning shot past the approaching Swiss-German.
So, on behalf of the 15,000 entertained fans in attendance at the Rod Laver Court, and those across the globe who sat on the edge of their seats watching every exchange live on Eurosport, allow Tramlines to describe the match for Novak:
Just 20 days into 2013, we probably already have our Match Of The Year.
Now, it’s easy to throw out superlatives in the post-match thrill of any excellent sporting display and it’s also easy to conceive that tennis will offer at least a few serious rivals to the accolade over the next 11 months - indeed, this Grand Slam may even have a couple more up its sleeve.
But here’s precisely why Djokovic-Wawrinka will spend the rest of this still-fledgling year as the measuring stick for every other ATP or WTA contest that's still to come:
- Wawrinka’s early dominance immediately grabbed the attention of the sports community, including those who may have assumed Djokovic would make short work of his opponent.
- By sustaining this for much of the second set and digging deep to reproduce it at times late on, the 15th seed proved this was no fluky early run made on the back of a slow start from the champion.
- The Wawrinka performance brought out a level of Djokovic’s play which one seldom sees against someone not named Federer, Murray or Nadal.
- The ebb and flow of the match over five hours remained tough to predict. Even bookmakers struggled to justify Novak as a heavy favourite when he went 1-6, 2-5 down.
- When 2-1 down in sets, the idea of Wawrinka forcing a decider seemed unlikely but both men had serious chances to snatch the win in the fifth.
- There was more than one moment of contention, both in calls made by the officials and the players’ decisions whether to challenge, which leave the result as a topic of hot debate.
- A highlight reel of the best exchanges and shots of the match, even using strict criteria, could easily top an hour.
- Even at such a length, even with the contest reaching somewhat of an impasse throughout the final set, the match did not grow any less engrossing.=
- The contest’s conclusion was fitting. The final game was an absolute thriller, and Djokovic’s winning shot was top-drawer stuff.
- Both Djoko’s legacy as an all-time great and Wawrinka’s reputation as a Grand Slam performer were enhanced a great deal by the match, and would have done so had the result been reversed.
- The match brought the best out of the commentators, who audibly sounded more like longtime fans than two people showing up to do a job.
Eleven reasons why it will take something truly special to stop Novak and Wawrinka from going the distance, just like they did on the court; and why this match will remain fresh in the minds of tennis fans worldwide when year-end review pieces are composed in 11 months time.
And that’s just off the top of the head.
No doubt we will all be watching intently when the world’s best players keep trying to top that over the course of 2013. In success or failure, we will all win from their efforts.
But the bar had already been set at a remarkable high, thanks to two players of world class ability and incredible heart.
Do you think Novak Djokovic v Stanislas Wawrinka will remain the finest tennis match of the year come December? What will it take to top the five-hour epic? Do you have more than the above 11 reasons why it was so good? Have your say in the comments section below…