By Alana Mitchelson
(January 23, 2014) MELBOURNE – Stanislas Wawrinka has paved his way into his first ever Grand Slam final after overcoming Tomas Berdych in four tight sets, 6-3, 6-7(7-1), 7-6(7-3), 7-6(7-4) and will boost himself into the position as the No. 1 Swiss men’s player come the end of the tournament if he is able to outlast Roger Federer.
The Swiss began the first set pumped and seemed to be channeling a similar momentum to that of his match in which he dethroned the Australian Open defending champion Novak Djokovic on the same stage just two nights prior. And it was clear from the beginning that Wawrinka had garnered quite the following since, as the crowd backed the all too often unsung hero who has finally been able to assert himself unto the welcoming arms of the general public.
He did well to disguise his serve placement, Berdych often finding it difficult to predict his movements, and the Czech mostly failed to deliver his A-game at critical moments.
Berdych missed an easy overhead to give Wawrinka the break in the first set, allowing the Swiss to serve it out, and devastatingly double faulted to hand Wawrinka the third.
There were some huge serves bolting down from both sides of the net and Wawrinka notably even launched three consecutive aces during one service game.
It was during the second set tie-break (and those few points only) that Berdych played more aggressively than he did for the entire match put together, shooting ahead to establish some mini-breaks and followed through to clinch the second set.
With the exception of an initial, brutal service game of Berdych’s which lasted over 10 minutes at the start of the fourth and final set, thereafter both men dropped their aggression levels down to a minimum which unfortunately did not make for the most entertaining viewing.
There was minimal fight asserted by the much too passive semifinal contenders. It appeared as though nerves had gotten the better of them, both of which were less experienced in handling the pressure of a match so near to granting entrance to the coveted Grand Slam final.
“It was a strange game,” Wawrinka admitted.
“I don’t think we played our best tennis, but we served really well. We were really aggressive on (our) service games. It was going really fast tonight so it was not easy to make some long rallies and to make him work.”
This led to inevitable tie-breaks as they each routinely held serve, but the odd backhand winner down the line from Wawrinka gave the crowd signs that he was maintaining the confident attitude required to stick it out to the very end.
Another all too familiar double fault by Berdych during the tie-break, reminiscent to that of the third set, contributed to Wawrinka being up a few mini-breaks in the fourth set. He nervously double faulted before forcing the error off Berdych’s backhand to secure a spot in the grand final.
”I feel great. It’s amazing, you know. I didn’t expect to make a final in a Grand Slam in my career. Tonight it’s happening, so I’m really happy. I’ve been working really hard (for) many years, trying to improve my game, trying to get some big matches in big stadiums. Now I’m in my first final of a Grand Slam, so I can be only really happy.
”I’m at the top of my career. Already, last year, I had the feeling that I was playing better and I was dealing better (with) the pressure also. I’m more mature, I’m 28 now. I’ve (been) on the tour for 10 years. Now I feel that it’s my time to play my best tennis. I’m enjoying more what I’m doing, when I’m winning, and also maybe I know more how to deal with all the pressure around.”
The triumphant Swiss will face one of two greats to the sport, either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, on Sunday night for the final showdown on Rod Laver Arena.
”If they can pull out, that would be good,” Wawrinka said jokingly with a smile.
”My record against Rafa is not really good and neither against Roger. But, for sure, to play a Swiss final will be amazing for Switzerland, for the country. He is the best player ever. For me it’s my first final. To imagine playing against Roger would be amazing.”
Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.