Wawrinka's three set points there came at 6-5, when Raonic delivered a serve at 129 miles per hour (208 km/h) followed by a forehand volley victor; at 8-7, when Raonic's 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) serve drew a missed return; and at 10-9, when an ace at 132 miles per hour (213 km/h) did the trick.
Nishikori was again in trouble when 6-7 in the final set 10-point tie-break, facing two massive Karlovic serves before winning the next three points to edge over the finish line.
And the Croatian, 10 years Nishikori's senior, took the fourth as he served four consecutive aces to take his tally for the match up to 47 in total against one of the game's best returners of serve.
Nishikori will play German Philipp Kohlschreiber or Portugal's Joao Sousa in the third round on Saturday. "But I will try to be more positive for the next round and hopefully, I can play better".
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"I was trying to play better every set, the second set playing better but he was still playing awesome tennis, forehand, backhand, serving really well today".
"I have to be happy to go to the next round because I nearly lost today".
After the match, Nishikori marveled at the 211-centimeter Karlovic's serve, pointing out that in one match the Croat racked up almost a year's worth of aces for him. "I'm sure I feel more comfortable playing this Grand Slam than other Grand Slam".
Meanwhile, fourth seed Naomi Osaka swept past Tamara Zidansek in straight sets to reach the Australian Open third round as she targets a second Grand Slam title.
Nishikori dropped to his hands and knees after winning the last three points of the tiebreaker, relieved to secure his spot.
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Wawrinka kept coming oh-so-close, and Raonic kept hanging in there and toughing out the most important moments along the way to a 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (11), 7-6 (5) victory Thursday that put the 16th-seeded Canadian into the third round at Melbourne Park for the eighth time in nine appearances. "Never easy. Kind of frustrating if you can't get the serve like three in a row".
She anticipated a tough test against Hsieh, who she defeated in their only previous meeting. "I hope now it's going to be the period where it really starts showing".
Nishikori isn't making it easy on himself so far this tournament after losing the first two sets of his first-round match and then allowing Karlovic to get back into this match after taking a 2-0 set lead.
After Zidansek broke Osaka's serve in the first set and leveled 2-2 on three straight unforced errors, the world No. 4 upped her game and broke the Slovenian twice while claiming four straight games to go out in front.
The second set was tighter as Osaka uncharacteristically struggled on serve, double faulting as Zidansek went up a break.
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