Djokovic Avoids Australian Open Upset as Sharapova Sets Record

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic fought back from a set and 5-2 down to beat Stanislas Wawrinka over five sets in five hours at the Australian Open and advance to his 15th straight tennis Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Women’s No. 2 Maria Sharapova routed Kirsten Flipkens yesterday to set a tournament record for fewest games lost in reaching the last eight, while Ekaterina Makarova extended her run of upsets in Melbourne by ousting No. 5 Angelique Kerber.

Defending champion Djokovic of Serbia won 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 12-10 at Rod Laver Arena after Wawrinka, the No. 15 seed from Switzerland, had served for a two-sets-to-love lead. The victory, secured at 1:41 a.m. local time on his third match point, lifted Djokovic into third place for the most men’s quarterfinal appearances in a row at the four majors behind Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors.

“I was just trying to hang in there and give every last drop of energy,” Djokovic, who celebrated by ripping off his shirt and bellowing into the sky, said in a televised courtside interview. “It could really have gone either way this match. I’m so glad to go through.”

The match lasted five hours, two minutes, with the final set alone taking 104 minutes, as Djokovic and Wawrinka showcased shot-making that produced a total of 120 winners. Wawrinka committed 93 unforced errors to 66 by Djokovic, who won the final 20-shot rally with a crosscourt backhand pass.

Berdych Next

Djokovic, seeking to become the first man since the professional era began in 1968 to win three straight Australian Opens, will next face Tomas Berdych. The No. 5 seed from the Czech Republic outlasted South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 15-13 in a third-set tiebreaker to advance in straight sets.

Men’s No. 4 seed David Ferrer beat Kei Nishikori to advance to a last-eight matchup with fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who went through when eighth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic quit their fourth-round contest because of a heel injury.

Sharapova, the No. 2 seed from Russia, defeated Flipkens of Belgium 6-1, 6-0 in 68 minutes at Rod Laver Arena. She’s dropped just five games at the season-opening major, the fewest en route to the quarterfinals since the Australian Open moved to 128-player draws in 1988.

“I’m certainly happy to be playing this well, but it only gets tougher from here,” said Sharapova, who won the tournament in 2008. “It’s really about keeping your focus, no matter what the score is, no matter if you’re up.”

Makarova Rematch

Sharapova, 25, bettered the previous mark of eight games allowed in reaching the quarterfinals shared by Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. The overall Grand Slam record for a 128-player draw is held by Mary Pierce, who lost four games on her way to the last eight of the 1994 French Open.

Sharapova will next play countrywoman Makarova, the No. 19 seed, who overcame fellow left-hander Kerber 7-5, 6-4 to match her 2012 run to the last eight. The 24-year-old Makarova, who ousted three seeds including five-time champion Serena Williams 12 months ago, has now beaten seven seeded players at the tournament in the past three editions. She lost to Sharapova in last year’s quarterfinals.

“Last year I was surprised to reach that stage and I had so many thoughts in my mind,” Makarova said after her victory. “This year I will be ready to play a good game.”

Ferrer, who tuned up for Melbourne Park by successfully defending his Auckland title, defeated 16th-seeded Nishikori of Japan 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 to reach his fifth straight Grand Slam quarterfinal. Ferrer next faces Almagro, a player he beat in all 12 of their previous career meetings.

Tipsarevic’s Trouble

Tenth-seeded Almagro was leading 6-2, 5-1 when Tipsarevic, who had a medical timeout to get his left foot bandaged before the eighth game of the first set, quit. The Serb had won back-to-back five-set matches to reach the last 16.

Women’s No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska extended her winning streak to 13 matches by beating 13th-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-4 in 70 minutes to reach the quarterfinals for the third straight year.

Radwanska, who’s yet to lose a set in 2013, will face former French Open champion Li Na for a place in the semifinals. The No. 6 seed from China saved a set point in a tiebreaker before completing a 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 victory over No. 18 Julia Goerges of Germany.

“I have a lot more confidence after two titles that I won the last two weeks,” Radwanska said. It’s been a great three weeks so far.”

Simon’s Struggles

Men’s No. 14 seed Gilles Simon said he may struggle to stay with U.S. Open champion Andy Murray in their fourth-round match today after his five-set win over fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils left him struggling to walk and needing about four hours of treatment.

Simon overcame cramps to win 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 8-6 in a four hour, 43-minute match that featured a 71-shot rally and finished at 12:31 a.m. local time yesterday. He returned to Melbourne Park later in the day to fulfill his post-match media commitments.

“I don’t have a lot of chance to win this one,” Simon said of his matchup against Murray. “But it’s my job to go on the court and do the maximum to bother him, to give him a hard time.”

Also today, No. 2 seed Federer of Switzerland faces 13th-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada, while defending women’s champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus takes on the unseeded Elena Vesnina of Russia.

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