Indeed, Wawrinka’s 57 winners — 26 from the forehand side — weren’t enough to overcome Djokovic’s fast-footed defense.
Playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal, Wawrinka opened with about as flawless a first set as possible. He broke Djokovic twice over the first 18 minutes, and when he completed the second break with a sizzling crosscourt forehand winner — one of seven in that set — Djokovic simply glanced across with a look that landed somewhere between bemused and amazed.
Yes, Wawrinka was going to be there all day, and by the time the fifth set rolled around, the scene near his changeover chair showed it. It looked like his living room, strewn with towels, shirts, a warmup jacket and an assortment of rackets, including the mangled remains of one stick he smashed in the fourth set, which drew him a point penalty.
It was that kind of day; the players each won 165 points. And Game 3 was that sort of game.
It started innocently enough, with an ace and a forced error by Djokovic that gave Wawrinka a quick 30-love lead.
But when Djokovic scrambled to get to a deftly struck drop shot, then Wawrinka sprayed the reply wide, things started setting up for something special. Djokovic followed that hustle play with an acutely angled backhand for a winner to make it 30-30. Wawrinka hit a forehand winner to make it 40-30, and for the next 15 minutes, each man tried in vain to close out the game.
The final 23 points included six winners, two double-faults and at least one small rest break for Wawrinka after a cruelly efficient dink-lob-overhead combination of Djokovic’s chased Wawrinka off the court and onto the ledge near the front row.
“That game, I was already quite tired, quite dead physically,” Wawrinka said. “Just trying to stay with him, to fight, to give everything I had in my body. But it was tough.”