Defending champion Novak Djokovic withstood a barrage of brilliance from Stanislas Wawrinka in a stunning five-hour win at the Australian Open.
The world number one came back from 6-1 4-1 down to win 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 12-10 in an electrifying night session on Rod Laver Arena.
It was the Serbian's 18th straight win at Melbourne Park, and sets him up for a quarter-final against Tomas Berdych.
Novak rips his shirt off as he celebrates winning in five sets..
The Serb won 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10, not as even as his recent performances – after four hours, he had hit 54 unforced errors, four more than in his previous three matches combined – but he fashioned a remarkable fightback and, at the end, just got the better of a gripping conclusion.
"It's hard to find the words," Djokovic said. "He deserved, equally, to be a winner of this match. I give him a lot of credit and respect. He was the aggressive player on the court, I was just trying to hang in there. It's midway through the tournament but it feels like a final to me. This means a lot to me, and to him. Incredible that so many people stayed until nearly two in the morning. It brings back the memories of 12 months ago with Rafa."
Those left in the draw will still be wary of the world No1, of course, because he is always dangerous when wounded, but they might sense vulnerability that was not there before. Pinned deep by the weight of Wawrinka's shots all night, he struggled to consistently dictate the pattern of the exchanges, despite the excellence of his defensive game.
Playing in new shoes, he slipped at the start, but stood tall at the end. Had Wawrinka won either he, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer or Nicolas Almagro, who meet in the other quarter-final in this section of the draw, would have made the final, only the second "intruder" from outside the Big Four in 34 majors. As it is, the status quo remains.
What a beast Djokovic is. Not many players could have let Wawrinka bludgeon his way to a 6-1, 5-2 lead before clawing his way back to parity and victory.
He out-gutted one of the game's quiet men, a solid citizen who looked to have frozen in sight of the prize before again and again coming back at the No1 seed. His next opponent, Tomas Berdych, also is prone to attacks of self-doubt in good company – although he came through a long, third-set tie-break to beat Kevin Anderson in the Margaret Court Arena earlier in the day, and, if he is at his best, he will give the Serb another serious argument.
For nearly an hour, it was impossible to recognise Djokovic as the shirt-ripping, chest-beating force of nature who traded nuclear missiles with Nadal in the same place a year ago. This was an inferior model, albeit a formidable one.
Stan was the man for the first five games, breaking for a second time with a disguised one-handed backhand he might have borrowed from his compatriot Roger Federer. Djokovic could not find rhythm on his serve or any steadiness in his ground strokes. He breathed heavily, sweat bathing his brow.
Everything was going Wawrinka's way, gloriously so as he sent a sizzling forehand around the net post, then served out to love to go 5-1 before they had properly warmed up, and took the set with an unreachable forehand whipped across a stationary, bamboozled Djokovic.
Wawrinka was in serving heaven, belting them down at around 211kph at a strike rate of 72% in the first set, 64% overall. His 2012 average was 56%.
Djokovic lifted himself immediately, needing just one of two break points to hit back at the start of the second, but, no sooner had he come to life, than he drifted out of focus again and buried a backhand low into the net to drop serve for the fourth time in a row. He trailed 1-4 after less than an hour, and his bad night had turned into a nightmare. His own game was collapsing while Wawrinka went through long stretches where nearly everything he tried came off, comfortable in the knowledge that he was playing a ghost.
Djokovic pulled one back in the sixth game and got a firmer foothold in the match to drag himself back to 3-5. The ghost left the building; the animal growled again.
The prospect of blowing a 6-1, 4-1 lead, and being in touching of a two-set lead at 30-0 and 5-2 up in the second, seemed, for a while, to suffocate his tennis. Serving for the set, he lost the energy in his shot-making and Djokovic pounced to break back and level.
It was now an exercise in redemption for Djokovic, while Wawrinka had to cope with the disappointment of wasting a chance he might never have again in his career.
Djokovic was hitting deeper, and so was Wawrinka – except his ground strokes were continuously straying long. There was hardly a soul in the house who did not make the champion a firm favourite. When he broke at the start of the third, he celebrated with a leap and a yell that curdled the blood. It was the frightening Djokovic of 12 months ago.
Wawrinka looked shattered but he was not entirely done, visibly relieved when Djokovic punched a backhand long, to give him another look. The tension hung heavy in the night air, as neither could establish dominance but, Djokovic broke then held to go a set up after two hours and 10 minutes.
Wawrinka had court-side treatment to his right thigh, but was hitting hard enough in the 10th game of the fourth set to knock a letter off the sponsor's name on the net, and his spirits rose as he urged the crowd to lift the volume after holding to love for 6-5. What the fans did was boo officials whose warped priority was to hold up play while they re-attached the sponsor's sign.
Back on planet reality, Wawrinka went 3-0 up in the tie-break as they went past midnight, and held three set points at 6-3; after clipping the net in mid-rally, he took the match into a fifth set at 6-5 with a firm forehand, no less than he deserved.
Having played so heroically to retrieve the advantage he threw away at the start, Wawrinka broke at the first time of asking in the fifth but was again struck down by his groin strain and dropped serve after a deuce duel.
It was impossible to gauge who might win, as neither had played with total conviction from the front, while both produced some of their most inspired tennis from behind.
Djokovic saved break point with a pressure smash and stayed ahead on serve with a cross-court forehand that recalled some of his best work.
In the sixth game, Wawrinka cramped up but held to level. At 4-4, he "blew" four break points, the last one on a wrong call with no challenges left. It was the most wretched turn of events for an underdog who refused to lie down.
From that point, neither flinched until Wawrinka served only his second double fault of the match and hit long for deuce in the 22nd game, after nearly five hours of tennis. Djokovic got to match point three times, and brought the drama to a fitting close with a forehand that passed an exhausted Wawrinka at the net. Their embrace at the net was one of the deepest respect. And, yes, Djokovic, saw fit to rip that shirt off again.
PS: Stan Wawrinka was one of the world's top 10 trending topics on Twitter during his match vs Djokovic, not only, he gained many-2 fans but also, changed his perception through out the world.
Here is a screen grab that I managed to captured which showed both Stan and Wawrinka being one of the top 10 trending Topics/Words on Twitter -----