“You're always going to feel that. We are just human beings. We are not machine. Sometimes happen; sometimes you, you know, just exhausted.”
For those of you wondering, that was Agnieszka Radwanska, and she is not a machine. She is, as she pointed out in her post-match press conference, human.
And on Thursday, Radwanska’s humanness failed her as she bowed out at the semifinal stage of a major for the third time. And, yes, her 6-1 6-2 loss to 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova was yet another case of a top seed falling before the final hurdle.
For the first time since 2008, not one of the top three seeds has made it to the Australian Open women’s final. Back then, the tennis world had to console itself with a shoot out between fourth seed Ana Ivanovic and fifth seed Maria Sharapova.
Back to the present. Right now, Li must be feeling like there’s a target on her back. The only member of the top 10 left standing after the semifinals, fourth-seeded Li now finds herself the firm favourite in Saturday night’s final with Cibulkova.
Li was simply too good on Thursday for Canadian 30th seed Eugenie Bouchard, whose semifinal appearance is by far her best result at a major to date. Not a bad effort for Bouchard who will pocket $540,000, which will more than double her career prizemoney.
No doubt we’ll be hearing more from the 19-year-old Canadian in the coming months and years.
Li is now preparing to win her second career major and hoping that her third Australian Open final will finish on a happier note than her past two did. Losses to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and Victoria Azarenka last year may well serve to inspire Li to greater heights on Saturday night.
For Cibulkova, this will be her first major final. Her win over Radwanska was just the second time she has beaten the fifth-seeded Pole in seven meetings.
The 20th seed here, Cibulkova may have entered the match as the underdog, but she played like a champion. Her fearless brand of tennis was too much for the ultra-defensive Radwanska, who simply ran out of gas at the wrong time.
“Well, when I played very tough match, very high level yesterday, you know, playing the next day is always tough,” said Radwanska.
“Of course I knew I was the second half (of the draw) playing so of course I wouldn't have a day off. In that case, that day off would be really a lot for me.”
Cibulkova, who also didn’t have a day off, has now defeated four opponents ranked higher than her en route to the final. Li, on the other hand, could win the title without having to beat a player ranked higher than her, let alone in the top 20.
But you can only play who’s on the other side of the net and so far, Li and Cibulkova have done just that. One match to go.
In men’s action, the first semifinal was played between Big Berd and the Stanimal.
Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka faced off in their 14th career meeting, which, prior to Thursday night’s semi, Wawrinka led 8-5. And he extended that advantage with a 6-3 6-7(1) 7-6(3) 7-6(4) win.
In a match that lasted three hours and 31 minutes there were just five break point chances – four for Stan and just one for Berdych, with Wawrinka converting the one and only break in the first set.
Berdych has played in a slam final before, at Wimbledon 2010; for Wawrinka, Sunday’s final will be new ground.
After the match, the Swiss No.2 commented that he never thought he’d play in the final of a major.
Now he’s there, and if we have learnt anything from this tournament, it’s that anything can happen on any given day.
And who knows? Stan could even end up playing his friend and countryman Roger Federer in the final.
But first Federer has to find a way past old foe Rafael Nadal, who meet in Friday night’s blockbuster second semifinal.
What did you say?
“I'm playing finals, so that's something beautiful. It's like a dream. So I will go just out there and play my best, try to do my best.”
- Dominika Cibulkova
It’ll be a long drive home for …
Here’s what she had to say after the match: “Of course, I mean, still a good result. Semifinal of a Grand Slam is still a good result. I've never been semifinals here. I'm still happy that I did it. Well, uhm, I cannot complain about that. But on other hand, of course you want even more.”
Yes, more. In years to come Radwanska – who led her head-to-head with Cibulkova 6-1 prior to Thursday’s match – will look back at this match as an opportunity to make another Slam final that slipped through her fingers.