Stanislas Wawrinka gets Swiss rolling in Melbourne
He surives a gruelling four set contest against Tomas Berdych to make his first Grand Slam final
Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland, left) shakes hands with Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic after winning their semi-final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne.
The 28-year-old knocked out three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals and was roared on by the majority of the Melbourne crowd to a 6-3 6-7 (1/7) 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/4) win against Berdych.
He could yet meet another Swiss-Swedish combination in the final on Sunday, with Roger Federer — under the guidance of Norman’s compatriot Stefan Edberg for the first time — due to play Rafael Nadal in the second semi-final.
Wawrinka said: “It’s amazing. I’m so happy to be here right now, to win that match, to make that first grand slam final. I didn’t expect to make a grand slam final and tonight it’s happening.
“Roger is the best player ever. He texted me last night saying how happy he was that two Swiss guys were in the semis. I told him, ‘For you it’s normal. For me, it’s not normal’. I’m going to watch the match tomorrow on my TV maybe with some popcorn.”
Thursday night’s tussle was a huge match for both Wawrinka and Berdych. Berdych’s only previous Grand Slam final came at Wimbledon in 2010 while Wawrinka was playing in just his second semi-final after first making the last four at the US Open last year.
Wawrinka picked up where he had left off in his stunning upset of Djokovic, taking the opening set after Berdych missed a smash on the only break point.
With both men strong on serve, it was always likely to be a contest of small margins, and so it proved.
Wawrinka was the more aggressive off the ground to start with but in the second-set tie-break Berdych came alive, winning six points in a row with hitting of power and precision.
The momentum had shifted and the Czech threatened a break at 4-4 in the third set.
But Wawrinka, who had won six of his previous seven matches against Berdych, recovered from 0-30 and then saved a break point, letting out a huge yell of “come on”.
It was the first real show of positive emotion on Rod Laver Arena, and although Berdych appeared calm, he betrayed the tension in his arm with two costly double faults in the tie-break.
That left Wawrinka one set away from his maiden slam final, and he pushed for the advantage at the start of the fourth set.
Berdych stood firm to save two break points, though, and thereafter the set adopted a pattern much like the previous two, again ending in a tie-break.
Wawrinka made the perfect start, moving into a 3-0 lead, and when Berdych double-faulted again to go 4-1 behind, the writing was on the wall.
At 6-3, Wawrinka had two match points on his own serve. He double-faulted on the first but on the second Berdych’s return flew long and the eighth seed was able to celebrate the greatest night of his career so far.