Rod Laver Arena is hallowed ground for Novak Djokovic.
It’s the site of his first and most successful run of Grand Slam titles; the stage, he admits, where some of his greatest battles have been fought.
On Wednesday night, Swiss world No.8 Stanislas Wawrinka made sure that trend would continue for his Serbian foe; his 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7 upset turning the tables on their tooth-and-nail five-set classic on the same arena at last year’s Australian Open.
This was a match where the numbers were stacked heavily in world No.2 Djokovic’s favour.
Coming into the match the four-time Australian Open champion was 70-0 on hardcourts at Grand Slam level after winning the first set.
He had won all 10 matches against his Swiss opponent after winning the first set and had only lost twice to him in 17 stoushes.
He was also riding a streak of 14 Grand Slam semifinals in a row.
Melbourne Park is where the six-time major winner has tasted his greatest success; his bid for four straight brought crashing down with back-to-back forehand volley errors on the four-hour mark.
“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, as I said, a better player. He stepped in and he won the match,” a gracious Djokovic said shortly after the defeat. “He deserved this win today. I congratulate him absolutely. I gave it all. I tried to fight til the last point as I did in a very similar match we did last year fourth round, same court, but it wasn't to be this time.”
There would be no excuses.
Nothing but praise for the level of play he had come to expect from the talented Swiss player, a man who twice fell in five-set tussles to the Serb in Grand Slam tournaments last year.
“In the last 15 months he's had the best results. He's established now in top 10. He's been winning against top players in big tournaments. He won against (Andy) Murray in US Open last year,” Djokovic said. “So he knows how to play now on the big stage. You could feel that with his game. He's really taking to the opponent and stepping in. When you're playing like this, only thing I can say is congratulations.”
It marks a disappointing debut with Boris Becker at the coaching helm, their first tournament together brought to an earlier end than anticipated.
“I'm satisfied with things that we've been talking about, working on. Of course, it's unfortunate that we finished the tournament in quarterfinals,” Djokovic said. “But look, you know, as I said, it's beginning of the season and we'll see what's coming next.”
As for the centre court, which has defined his career to date, Djokovic was willing to reflect.
The memories remained overwhelming positive.
“It's amazing court, probably the court where I had most excitement in my tennis career,” he said. “I mean, matches with Rafa (Nadal), with Stan, last year, this year, some epic battles. Won many trophies in Australia.
“I love that court. These are kind of matches that you work for, you live for, you practise for. You know, unfortunately somebody has to lose in the end. This year was me. I lost to a better player.”