MELBOURNE, Australia -- And just like that it was over, suddenly, if that's possible after four hours.
The streak of three straight Australian Open titles. The 28-match tour win streak. The 25 consecutive victories in this tournament. The 14 straight Grand Slam semifinals. The 13 wins versus top-10 players, 14 against Stanislas Wawrinka.
"Fourteen is already enough," Wawrinka joked in that way that only winners can.
An easy forehand volley pushed wide by one of the best clutch players in the game and Wawrinka had finally gotten the best of Novak Djokovic in Tuesday night's quarterfinals, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7.
"Of course, obviously I'm disappointed at this stage," said Djokovic, who seemed as shocked as anyone on match point. "But tomorrow is a new day. I have to accept the facts that you can't win all the matches that you play. One thing I can be proud of is that I gave my best. It wasn't enough. But again, I know that I fight all the way through and laid my heart out there. It's a battle. One of us has to lose. He was a better player. He stepped in and he won the match."
After last year's 5-hour, 2-minute round of 16 match here last year won 12-10 in the final set by Djokovic, he will forever be linked with Wawrinka, who shared another dramatic five-setter in the US Open semifinals last fall, also won by Djokovic.
Twice since then, Djokovic has beaten Wawrinka in straight sets, both on hard courts. But then Djokovic doesn't lose often, particularly in these kind of matches, particularly on this court, where he defeated Rafael Nadal in a 5-hour, 53-minute 2012 final, and in that same year, in just under five hours, in a five-set semifinal against Andy Murray.
"Pressure is a privilege," Djokovic told the media last week, perhaps unaware that was the title of a 2008 book by Billie Jean King. It didn't matter. They both get it.
"It means you're doing something that is very valuable, that is, of course, very important," Djokovic continued. "In my life I've always dreamed of being on this stage, competing at the highest level. So I try to look at the pressure on the brighter side, right?"
Wawrinka, the No. 8 seed, would certainly agree. A player who grew from losses, who took hope in defeat, so much so that after last year's heartbreaker against Djokovic, he had a quote by Irish playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett tattooed on his left arm reading: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better."
"In tennis, as you know, if you are not Roger or Rafa and Djokovic or Andy you don't win so many tournaments and you always lose," Wawrinka explained last year. "But you need to take the positive of the loss and you need to go back to work. … It's that simple."
It was not necessarily simple but Wawrinka indeed went back to work, getting fitter, getting tougher, biding his time, perhaps, for this night, when his opponent was in firm control of the opening set, the No. 2 seed looking as if he would not tolerate even the idea of another marathon.