AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2014
Wawrinka Reaches First Slam Final
by ATP Staff|
"I feel great. It's amazing," said Wawrinka. "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 in a Grand Slam, so I can be only really happy."
Wawrinka could face Roger Federer in the first all-Swiss Grand Slam final, should Federer overcome Rafael Nadal in Friday night’s semi-final. "To play a Swiss final would be amazing, first for Switzerland, for the country," said Wawrinka. "He is the best player ever. For me it's my first final. To imagine to play against Roger would be amazing."
The 28-year-old Wawrinka is building on a career-best 2013 season, which saw him reach his first major semi-final at the US Open (l. to Djokovic) and qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Working with coach Magnus Norman, the right-hander is unbeaten in 2014, opening his campaign by winning his fifth ATP World Tour title at the Aircel Chennai Open (d. Roger-Vasselin). He advanced to the semi-finals at Melbourne Park by dethroning three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in five sets.
"Already last year I had the feeling that I was playing better, but I was dealing better with the pressure also," said Wawrinka. "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."
"He's the player who made the biggest improvement of his game in the last year," said Berdych of Wawrinka. "Since he started to work with Magnus his tennis is really, really a different level. You can see it in the results. Really there is no question about it."
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Wawrinka made a composed start to the semi-final, breaking Berdych in the eighth game as the Czech player smashed wide. He served out the opener in 31 minutes, hitting 12 winners, twice as many as Berdych.
Berdych stayed close to Wawrinka in the second set, saving the only break point of the set in the seventh game to force a deciding tie-break. The Czech upped his winner count to 20 in response to Wawrinka’s aggression from the first set and was rewarded as he surged into a 6-1 lead in the tie-break, closing the set in 56 minutes.
Neither player was able to make a breakthrough in the third set, though Berdych earned his first break point of the contest at 4-4. After rifling a forehand down the line at 30/30, though, the Czech steered his backhand return wide as Wawrinka held on.
Mini-breaks were exchanged in the early stages of the tie-break before a double fault from Berdych proved costly. Wawrinka suffered no such letdown on serve and two big deliveries gave him a 6-3 lead. The Swiss then benefitted from another double fault from Berdych to clinch the breaker and inch ahead.
Berdych saved a break point in a 16-minute first game of the fourth set as again the players were inseparable on serve. In the subsequent tie-break, another costly double fault from Berdych saw him go 1-4 down, while an ace from Wawrinka took him to a 5-2 lead. The Swiss blinked, just once, as he double faulted on his first match point at 6-3. He made no mistake on the second, prevailing in three hours and 31 minutes with an unreturned serve.
In the end, just one point made the difference: Wawrinka won 143 points; Berdych won 142.
"When you play a four-set match with three tie-breaks it is rare, but I tried to stay really aggressive in the tie-break, tried to go for it," said Wawrinka. "My goal was to be more aggressive than him, try to take advantage in the points. I had the feeling he was really nervous and really tired because he gave me a little bit some points in the third set tie-break and fourth set tie-break, with some double faults."
The 28-year-old Berdych had been hoping to reach his second Grand Slam final, having finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2010. He dropped to a 5-9 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Wawrinka.
"The match was extremely even and it was really so close," said Berdych. "It's really hard to find what could be the difference. I mean, we both played great. We played a good match. Stan was the one that just took it, and that's it.
"Basically the game plan was working nearly perfect. But just the tie-break is always a big lottery, and he was the lucky one today. I'm starting to get quite annoyed with the matches losing in tie-breaks. I'm not pretty good in that. I can give you quite many examples of losing matches in tie-breaks. I need to improve that, definitely."