Wawrinka reaches first grand slam final
Swiss proves his upset win over Djokovic is no fluke by wearing down Berdych in a serving battle at the Australian Open
Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka backed up his upset of four-time champion Novak Djokovic by reaching his first grand slam final with a 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4) win over Czech Tomas Berdych in the Australian Open tennis semi-finals on Thursday.
Wawrinka ended a 14-match losing streak against Djokovic with a dramatic five-set, four-hour win in the quarter-finals, then followed that with a dominating performance against Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless,” he said. “I didn’t expect to make a final in a grand slam – tonight it’s happening.”
The eighth-seeded Wawrinka will meet the winner of Friday’s semi-final showdown between Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Switzerland’s Roger Federer, the 33rd instalment of their rivalry and the first at a grand slam since Nadal knocked Federer out of the Australian Open at the same stage in 2012.
Whoever he plays, Wawrinka will go into the final as an underdog. He has never beaten Nadal in 12 meetings, and has lost all but one of his 14 matches against his countryman Federer.
“I take the confidence from my level in general,” he said. “I know that I’m playing my best tennis.”
Wawrinka has long been in Federer’s shadow as Switzerland’s less-heralded No 2, but he’s been slowly gaining confidence in his game since narrowly losing a heartbreaking marathon match to Djokovic in Melbourne last year.
In April, he hired a new coach – Magnus Norman, a former Swedish player once ranked as high as No 2. Since then, he’s risen to a career-high No 8 in the rankings and reached his first grand slam semi-final at the US Open.
Now he’s taken the next step into the final of a major, where he could meet his good friend and sometime doubles partner Federer.
Wawrinka said he received a text message from Federer on Wednesday night saying he was really happy there were two Swiss players in the semi-finals of a major for the first time.
“I told him, ‘For you it’s normal, for me it’s not normal’,” he joked.
Wawrinka jumped out to an early lead against Berdych, getting the only break of the match when the seventh-seeded Czech player, looking tentative at the start, made several misses on his forehand before driving an easy overhead long.
With neither player giving anything on their service games after that, Berdych was the first to crack in the crucial tiebreakers. He double-faulted twice in the third-set tiebreaker, including on set point, and then again in the fourth-set breaker.
Little separated the two players in the match – Wawrinka won a total of 143 points to Berdych’s 142, while they each made 49 unforced errors. The Swiss player served a little more consistently, though, facing only one break point in the match.
“It’s really hard to find what could be the difference,” Berdych said. “I mean, we both play great. We play a good match. Stan was the one that just took it, and that’s it.”