It was a night full of extraordinary upsets and epic contests, as Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych bested the odds against them to advance to the semi-final stage in Melbourne. For Berdych, he needed a four set victory over world No. 3 David Ferrer, while Wawrinka’s upset was far more monumental: a 5 set epic battle against world No. 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic. Having now produced some of their most remarkable tennis to reach this stage of the tournament, which of these two competitors will manage to advance a step further to the finals? The Wawrinka vs Berdych Head to Head stands at 8-5, with three consecutive victories for the Swiss out of four meetings in 2013.
Wawrinka had previously reached the semi-final stage of a Grand Slam event last year, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in another of their five set thrillers. It was his second consecutive loss to Djokovic in five sets, with the first coming the previous year at the Australian Open, when Djokovic was victorious 12-10 in the final set. HIs victory on Tuesday night ended a 25-match winning streak for the Serb, dating back to his US Open final loss to Nadal in September. It also ended his quarter-final streak at Grand Slams at 19.
The Swiss No.2 dropped the opening set to Djokovic but quickly regrouped to find breaks of serve in the following two sets to take a 2-1 lead heading into the fourth. There, Djokovic would up his intensity and pressure, and would begin finding his shots and rhythm as the match ensued. Once the score was levelled, Djokovic found an early break at 2-1 in the final set but Wawrinka quickly broke back to lead 4-3 before the rain interrupted the play for five minutes. Once the players were back on court, Stanislas kept attacking until he found an opening to lead 8-7. This was where the three time defending champion botched his final two shots to surrender the match to the Swiss No. 2, to the delight of the Melbourne crowd in attendance.
While he could barely contain his joy, Wawrinka attempted to focus his thoughts on his upcoming semi-final opponent, Tomas Berdych, who has only dropped a set heading into his Thursday encounter.
“It’s for sure a big chance,” said Wawrinka. “Berdych is playing well since the beginning of the tournament. He’s going to be a tough player to beat. He already made one final in a slam. He already made the semi-finals in every Grand Slam.
“He’s really close to the top, top guys. It’s going to be a tough battle.”
On the other side of the net, Tomas Berdych has been quietly stringing together an outstanding run in Melbourne, culminating with his four-set victory over world No. 3 David Ferrer to reach the semi-final stage in Melbourne. Now, the Czech No. 1 is looking to reach his second ever Grand Slam final (first was Wimbledon 2010) with a victory over Wawrinka, whom he defeated on five previous occasions.
The towering athlete held his nerve for the majority of his match with Ferrer, as he quickly jumped to a two set lead with minimal resistance from the Spaniard. The third set saw Ferrer finally manage a break of serve and would snatch the set to force a fourth. He would get five opportunities to break serve again, including in the final game but was unable to do so and exited the tournament without going to a deciding set.
“It’s really a great feeling,” said Berdych in his press conference. “There were some special moments which went well together in this match, making it for the first time here in the Aussie Open to the semis, winning my first match on Rod Laver after all those years. That’s been a very special match to me. I’m extremely happy to go through.”
The two competitors have previously met on thirteen occasions on the tour, with Wawrinka leading the head-to-head series 8-5, including three consecutive victories in their last three meetings in 2013. Amongst those three wins, is a four-set US Open fourth round contest, which Wawrinka also won to reach the quarter-finals against Murray. While Wawrinka deserves the credit for his victories, it is undeniable that Berdych was a shell of himself during the fall portion of the season in 2013 and has been performing far better since arriving in Melbourne. His service games in particular, have improved tremendously and that will likely trouble the Swiss throughout the match.
Prediction: Stanislas Wawrinka in Four Sets