Melbourne – Defending champion Novak Djokovic said he'd be ready for his Australian Open quarter-final despite his five-hour struggle with Stanislas Wawrinka which finished in the early hours of Monday.
Last year, Djokovic recovered from a titanic semi-final with Andy Murray to win the longest title match in Grand Slam history, and said he could perform similar heroics in Tuesday's last-eight clash with Tomas Berdych.
“I've been in those situations before. I won against Murray in the semis after five hours, and then played against Rafa (Rafael Nadal) almost six hours,” said the Serbian world No 1.
“I know I can recover. I know I have it in me. I wasn't too much worried about the physical part. I was ready for it. I was ready to go the distance, and I've done so.
“Hopefully I can take that day off tomorrow and recover for the quarters.”
Djokovic was speaking after completing a 5hr 2min, five-set victory over Switzerland's Wawrinka at 1:41 am on Monday, evoking memories of last year's 5hr 53min final against Nadal.
The 2011 and 2012 champion now faces a race to be ready for his quarter-final with Berdych as he bids to complete the first hat-trick of Australian Open victories since the 1960s.
“I just had a flashback of the 2012 final,” Djokovic said. “This match was maybe 45 minutes less... than the one 12 months ago, but still it was just as exciting.
“I guess everybody enjoyed the match. I tried to perform my best, you know, enjoy the moment, be in the present, and couldn't ask for more.”
World No 17 Wawrinka, who had won only three sets in his 10 previous encounters with Djokovic, said he was “really sad” to lose what he described as the best match he has ever played.
“When you play five hours, for sure you have some chance to win. You need to fight to stay with him. I don't think it's one bad call or one challenge that can change the match,” Wawrinka said.
“At the end he was still there. He was playing great tennis. We were both tired. But I really fought like a dog, like always.”
The match comes just 24 hours after Gilles Simon beat fellow Frenchman Gael Monfils in 4hr 43min, an effort that left him so drained and cramped that he could barely walk.
Earlier in the tournament, Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic was stretchered off with an IV drip after playing for nearly five hours in intense afternoon heat.
As well as last year's marathon final, the Australian Open is also famed for an early hours duel between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis in 2008 which wrapped up at nearly 5am. – Sapa-AFP