Two sets down at Rod Laver Arena and clinging on grimly, the best that could be said of Nishikori's 'Hail Mary' shot was that it was a brave play.

An inch more on the ball and it might have been considered 'inspired'. As it was, it caught the net tape, bounced back on his side and handed defending champion Wawrinka a serve for the match.

The Swiss needed no further invitation, and blasted his 20th ace, a 208 kmph missile down the 'T', to close out the 6-3 6-4 7-6(6) rout of the fifth seed, who had upset him at the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open.

"That (dropshot) I was really happy (with) because I was not going to get to that ball," fourth seed Wawrinka told reporters. "Yeah, I had the wind with me, so it was not easy to make a dropshot, especially at that moment.

"It was a crazy tiebreak, but good tiebreak. Good to finish in three sets." It was also Wawrinka's second 'crazy' tiebreak in two matches at Melbourne Park, having been down 6-2 in the fourth set tiebreak against Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

In that match, he roared through five consecutive points and claimed it 10-8 to escape a taxing five-setter.

Wawrinka was glad to get off the court quickly against Nishikori. Despite his complete dominance of the clean-hitting Japanese in the first two sets, there was the air of a great escape at Rod Laver Arena.

Wawrinka had thrown Nishikori around the court, serving up a storm and blasting winners seemingly at will in his best tennis of the tournament. One blasted backhand cross-court shot had so much spice on it that it knocked Nishikori's racquet from his hand when he took a swing at it after a scramble past the tramlines.

The 25-year-old Japanese gradually worked his way back into the match, throwing the Swiss with some classic serve-and-volley tactics.

Wawrinka also showed a new willingness to rush forward and won 11 out of 13 points at the net, a potentially handy weapon in his arsenal for his next match against either Novak Djokovic or Canada's Milos Raonic.

"I'm more aggressive," he said. "I'm more confident with my game when I come to the net. "Today was a great level, a great match. Now I'm going to enjoy a little bit, watch who's going to win tonight and get ready for the semi-final."

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