Australian Open: Defending champs Azarenka, Djokovic knocked out in quarterfinals


MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria Azarenka’s 18-match winning streak at the Australian Open ended in an upset 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 quarterfinal loss to Agnieszka Radwanska on Tuesday, continuing the flow of stars tumbling out of the season’s first major.

Fifth-seeded Radwanska ended her own streak of three consecutive quarterfinal defeats at the Australian Open with a stunning display of versatile shot-making that shocked and confused the big-hitting Azarenka.

The result means both defending champions were out in the quarterfinals — Novak Djokovic lost in five sets to Stan Wawrinka the previous night.

The No. 8-seeded Wawrinka had lost 14 head-to-heads to Djokovic until the 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 victory.

Djokovic held off Wawrinka 12-10 in the fifth set in a 5-hour, 2-minute fourth-rounder last year — the longest Grand Slam match of the season — en route to his third straight Australian title. He also edged Wawrinka in five sets in the U.S. Open semifinals.

This time, it was Wawrinka’s turn.

“I don’t want to lose every time in five sets against Novak. I had to find solution,” Wawrinka said. “I had to fight within myself to fight against him and try to keep my line during the game. That’s mean being really aggressive.

“Last year I took a lot of confidence with those match with Novak … I came on the court with a lot of confidence in myself, knowing that if I play my best game, I always have a chance against him. “

This one took exactly four hours and featured some stunning rallies, with both players openly showing amazement at some of the shots coming back from the other side of the net. And just to add to the drama, there was a five-minute rain delay with Wawrinka serving at 5-5 in the fifth.

Djokovic had to constantly serve to stay in the match after an early exchange of breaks in the fifth set, and the pressure finally told.

After all the superb shot making, it was a mis-hit from Wawrinka that set up match point. Djokovic chased the floating service return to the net but skewed his cross-court drop shot wide. He then missed a volley on match point, ending a run of 28 consecutive wins dating back to his U.S. Open final defeat to Rafael Nadal.

“He took his opportunities. He deserved his big win today,” Djokovic said. “It was a tough battle mentally, physically, emotionally obviously. This is what happens when you play a top player on this stage, when you go the distance in the fifth.

“He showed his mental strength and he deserved to win — the only thing I can say is congratulations.”

Azarenka’s defeat followed the fourth-round exits of top-ranked Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and leaves 2011 French Open champion Li Na as the only major winner remaining in the women’s draw.

Radwanska next plays No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova, who won the last eight games in a one-hour, 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal rout of No. 11-seeded Simona Halep.

Li, a two-time finalist in Australia, will play 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the other semifinal.

Radwanska played drop shots and slices from the baseline, forcing Azarenka to come forward and then lobbing or passing her. She hit touch volleys with calm precision, and instinctively anticipated Azarenka’s shots.

She didn’t fall into big-swinging rallies against the second-seeded Azarenka, either, continually mixing it up and saving the power for when she needed it.

“She was aggressive. She was making everything. She was guessing right,” Azarenka said. “I was just playing a little bit too predictably.

“In the second set I managed to fight back. Third set, the first game was important. I let it go, like easily let it go. From there just couldn’t get back to it. It was tough.”