Novak Djokovic into Aussie final

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Friday, January 30, 2015

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Novak Djokovic reached his fifth Australian Open final with a five-set win over defending champion Stan Wawrinka that fell flat compared with their previous encounters at Melbourne Park.

The top-ranked Djokovic beat Wawrinka in a seesawing 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 win on Friday night to set up a final against longtime friend and rival Andy Murray, a player he has beaten twice in the championship match in Australia.

"It was a lot of running, a lot of fighting and that's what won me the match tonight," Djokovic told ESPN after the match.

"As it was the case last two years, we played five sets. I was ready for the battle. We pushed each other to the limit."

Djokovic is unbeaten in finals at Melbourne Park, claiming his first Grand Slam title here in 2008 and winning three straight years from 2011 before his run was ended in the quarterfinals last year by Wawrinka.

Djokovic, who won titles here in 2008 and 2011-14, equaled the record shared by Roger Federer and Stefan Edberg for most Australian finals in the Open era. He has won all four of his previous finals here, including two against Murray.

After alternating set wins over the first four sets, Djokovic won seemingly every key point -- and challenge -- in the deciding fifth set. It was the fourth straight Grand Slam matchup between the two that went the distance, as this one lasted 3 hours, 30 minutes.

"There were parts of the match where I stepped in and played a game I needed to play, but parts of the match where I played too defensive and allowed him to dictate," Djokovic said. "So yeah, it was very emotional, very tense, as it always is against a top player in semifinals of a Grand Slam."

Having dropped his serve only once through five matches, Djokovic was broken five times in the semifinal and looked lethargic at times -- even failing to realize that he had won the third set to take a 2-1 lead.

Even Wawrinka was at a loss for words.

"Describe the match? Strange. Not the best, for sure," said Wawrinka, who fell to 1-17 against top-ranked players. "I don't know. Next question."

The previous three Grand Slam meetings between Djokovic and Wawrinka had gone five sets, including two at the Australian Open that lasted a combined nine hours. The Serbian player has now won 17 of their 20 career matches.

Djokovic won 12-10 in the fifth in the fourth round in 2013, and Wawrinka won 9-7 in the fifth in the quarterfinals last year.

Djokovic kept his composure as momentum shifted suddenly in three of the five sets, with both players struggling to turn service breaks into big leads.

Wawrinka, who had more aces (10-5) and winners (42-27) than Djokovic, was ultimately undone by 69 unforced errors -- 20 more than his opponent.

"I'm surprised we went five sets again," Wawrinka said. "... Today was a strange match. He was there playing good enough to win and he deserve to win and play the final."

Djokovic said he's going to have to improve considerably to maintain his perfect record in Australian Open finals.

"I think I have much more positive things to reflect on in my game and then all the matches that I played so far in the tournament than the negative," he said. "I'm in the finals. In the end of the day, that's why I'm here. Getting to the finals in any way possible is a great achievement. I'm going to try to use that to build up of the confidence for finals."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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