Stanislas Wawrinka has won through to his first Grand Slam final, the eighth seed outlasting Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-7(1) 7-6(3) 7-6(4) in a tense four-set semifinal at Rod Laver Arena on Thursday night.
The Swiss will play either compatriot Roger Federer or top seed Rafael Nadal in the men’s singles final on Sunday night after defeating seventh seed Berdych, who was looking to advance to his first major final since losing to Nadal at Wimbledon in 2010.
Wawrinka, who eliminated Novak Djokovic in a dramatic quarterfinal on Tuesday, defeated Berdych for the fourth consecutive time, with victory coming in three hours and 32 minutes.
“Wow. I don’t know what to say – I’m speechless,” Wawrinka said afterwards.
“It’s amazing, I’m so happy to be here to win that match to be in the final in that first Grand Slam. I didn’t expect to be in a final of a Grand Slam, and tonight it’s happening so I’m just really happy.”
Bidding to become the first eighth seed to win the Australian Open since Brian Teacher 34 years ago, Wawrinka has upheld his end of the bargain for an all-Swiss final, now relying on his compatriot Roger Federer defeat Rafael Nadal on Friday night.
There’ll be no staying neutral for Wawrinka cheering on that match.
“For sure, it will be amazing. Roger is the best player ever. He texted me last time to say he was really happy two players from Switzerland were in the semifinals,” Wawrinka said. “I said ‘for you it’s normal, for me it’s not normal’.
“I’m going to watch the match from my TV, maybe with my popcorn.”
Wawrinka won 143 points to Berdych’s 142 for the match, indicating just how close the Czech came to reaching his second major decider.
“It's been by one point and one break, that's it,” Berdych said of the defeat.
“Basically the game plan was working nearly perfect. But, you know, just the tiebreak is always a big lottery, and he was the lucky one today.”
Wawrinka made the most of the limited opportunities afforded to him in the first set, breaking Berdych in the eighth game when the Czech sent an errant smash well long as the Swiss held two break points. A backhand error from Berdych in the next game gifted Wawrinka the first set in 31 minutes, one where he had 12 winners to Berdych’s six and didn’t face a break point on his own serve.
Despite not earning a single break-point opportunity in a tense 56-minute second set, Berdych was able to blunt Wawrinka’s serve when it mattered, taking control of the tie-break and winning it 7-1.
The third set continued in a similar manner from the second, with neither player able to make inroads into the other’s serve until the ninth game, where a big forehand from Berdych to end a 20-shot rally earned the Czech his first break-point opportunity of the match at the two-hour mark.
Wawrinka recovered to hold, and that momentum carried over to the tiebreak.
Berdych’s serve, so reliable to that stage, crumbled at the most inopportune time in the tiebreak. He served two of his three double-faults of the match to that point, including one on set point to send Wawrinka skipping to his courtside chair.
Berdych’s serve was shaky early in the fourth set, taking 16 minutes to hold the first game that went to deuce six times.
The set progressed on serve for 60 minutes to a seemingly inevitable tiebreak. Another Berdych double fault saw the Swiss consolidate his advantage, and while Wawrinka squandered his first match point with a double fault of his own, he won through to his first major final when Berdych sprayed one final backhand long.
Wawrinka would love nothing more than a distinctly Swiss takeover of the men’s final day on Australia Day this Sunday.
It’s over to you, Rog.