Novak Djokovic stormed into the Australian Open final on Friday night, smashing Stan Wawrinka’s title defence in another five-set stunner.
Djokovic and Wawrinka put on memorable five-setters in their past two meetings at Melbourne Park and the third instalment almost lived up to the billing, with Djokovic winning 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0 in three and a half hours on Rod Laver Arena.
Top seed Djokovic, bidding for a fifth Australian Open title, faces Andy Murray on Sunday in a rematch of the 2011 and 2013 finals.
Murray couldn’t push either of those deciders to five sets, but the Scot will take heart from the way Djokovic was made to look fallible for the first time in this tournament.
Heading into the semi-final, Djokovic had dropped one of his 74 service games at Melbourne Park over the past fortnight.
Wawrinka broke the Serb’s superb serve five times on Friday, while Djokovic dropped his only two sets of the event.
There were epic rallies, unbelievable returns, 15 aces in total and no shortage of drama.
Suitably, the tempo lifted a notch in the fifth set.
It started with an 11-minute service game from Djokovic, who warded off a break point and held serve with a successful review.
Two double faults from Wawrinka gave Djokovic a chance to go up 2-0 and it proved a costly invitation.
Djokovic broke again and again as Wawrinka yielded in uncharacteristic fashion, the reigning champion finishing with 69 unforced errors in total.
The heat went on world No.1 Djokovic at one set apiece and he looked in physical discomfort as Wawrinka broke back to make it 3-3 in the third.
But, as has so often been the case in recent years, Djokovic rose to the occasion.
He fought back from 15-40 in the final game of the third set, winning three consecutive points after Wawrinka double-faulted.
The seven-time grand slam winner took the third set in style, almost flinging himself sideways to return an excellent serve from the Swiss.
Wawrinka then slammed his forehand into the net and that was that – although it didn’t quite register with a dazed Djokovic.
As security guards marched onto the court to signify the end of a set, the 27-year-old stood in position ready to serve before chair umpire James Keothavong told him to take a seat.
The ding-dong battle continued in the fourth set, when Djokovic triumphed in a 12-point game to get the early break and 2-0 lead.
Wawrinka broke back, only to slump to 0-40 as he attempted to hold serve for the first time in the fourth set.
But Wawrinka stepped up, an audacious drop shot the highlight as he reeled off five consecutive points to hold serve.
Djokovic was broken to love soon after as Wawrinka pushed it to a fifth set.
Earlier, Djokovic was ruffled for the first time in the tournament when he smashed a racquet after having his serve broken in the first set.
Djokovic steadied and was far too good in the only tiebreak of the match, cruising to a 5-0 lead.