Wawrinka backs up Djokovic upset by reaching first major final at Australian Open
Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 12:01 am
MELBOURNE, Australia - Stanislas Wawrinka backed up his upset of four-time champion Novak Djokovic by reaching his first Grand Slam final with a 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) win over Tomas Berdych in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday.
Wawrinka ended a 14-match losing streak against Djokovic with a dramatic five-set, four-hour win in the quarterfinals, 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 semifinal showdown between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the 33rd installment 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 semifinal at the U.S. 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 semifinals of a major for the first time.
"I told him, 'For you it's normal, for me it's not normal,'" he joked.
Federer, who has reached his 11th consecutive semifinal at the Australian Open, said he'd love to see an all-Swiss final at Melbourne Park.
"Hopefully he can make it. Then he can put the pressure on me," Federer said after his quarterfinal win over Andy Murray on Wednesday.
Wawrinka jumped out to the 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 total 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."
The women's side also has a first-time Grand Slam finalist after Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova beat Agnieszka Radwanska in a 6-1, 6-2 rout in the semifinals earlier Thursday.
She'll meet Chinese No. 4-seeded Li Na, who reached her third final in four years at Melbourne Park with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.
In a women's tournament full of results, Cibulkova's run has been the most dramatic. The diminutive Slovakian has won all but one of her matches in straight sets and only needed 70 minutes to win her first Grand Slam semifinal.
"When you look at it this way, it is nice for me. I didn't spend so much time on the court," said Cibulkova, who also took out No. 3-seeded Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.
Li, the 2011 French Open champion, was the only major winner remaining in the semis after Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Sharapova all fell. After saving a match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova, she's the favourite to finally win an Australian title.
"I was really feeling after the match I was getting a second life in this tournament," she said. "In China, we say if you have tough time, you pass that, (and) it means you (will) be so lucky."