Melbourne: Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was magnanimous in defeat on Tuesday as his golden run at the Australian Open was halted by Stanislas Wawrinka in a pulsating five-set quarter-final.
Wawrinka emerged from the shadow of his legendary Swiss Davis Cup team-mate Roger Federer to make his own world headlines with an upset win over six-time Slam champion Djokovic.
The Swiss eighth seed beat Djokovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7 in a four-hour quarter-final on Rod Laver Arena to set up a semi-final with Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic has dominated recent Australian Opens, winning it four times altogether, and was on an unbeaten 25-match run at Melbourne Park before Wawrinka's stunning victory.
The Serb, who went out in the quarters in his first tournament working with new coach Boris Becker, paid tribute to Wawrinka and reflected on his previous success at the Australian Open.
"Yeah, it's an amazing court, probably the court where I had most excitement in my tennis career. I mean matches with Rafa (Nadal), with Stan last year and this year, some epic battles," he said.
"I've won many trophies in Australia. I love Rod Laver Arena. These are kind of matches that you work for, you live for, you practice for.
"I have to be very proud of my accomplishments in my whole career, and especially in this tournament. This is definitely by far my most successful Grand Slam.
"You know, unfortunately somebody has to lose in the end. This year was me. I lost to a better player."
Djokovic did not bemoan the luck that eluded him in those last fateful points which decided the outcome of the gripping match.
"I can say I was lucky with some shots last year in our match. This time it was him that had luck a little bit on 30-all, his mishit return. Then an easy volley for me on a match point," he said.
"But this is sport. I mean he showed his mental strength and he deserved to win."
Djokovic said Wawrinka is now established in the world's top 10 and knows how to play on the big stage.
"He's in great form. In the last 15 months he's had the best results. He's established now in the top 10. He's been winning against top players in big tournaments. He won against Andy Murray at the US Open last year," said Djokovic.
"So he knows how to play now on the big stage. You could feel that with his game. He's really taking it to the opponent and stepping in. When you're playing like this, the only thing I can say is congratulations."
Djokovic would not go as far as to say that Wawrinka would now go on and win the tournament, with Nadal, Federer or Murray in the other half of the men's draw and with a semi-final next up against Berdych.
"I don't know. (It wouldn't be) a huge surprise, because he's already feeling much more confident in the last year-and-a-half," he said, when asked if Wawrinka would lift the trophy.
"With his performances in the big tournaments, you can say that he deserves to be where he is. He deserved to win this match tonight because he's a great player and he's mentally matured.
"I don't know If he's going to win or not. Every day is different."