Giant-killer Stanislas Wawrinka said he is expecting no emotional let-down following his stunning upset of Novak Djokovic when he plays Tomas Berdych for a place in the Australian Open final today.
The Swiss eighth seed sent the tennis world into a spin when he dumped the three-time defending champion out of the year’s opening Grand Slam in a gripping five-set quarter-final.
It was Djokovic’s earliest exit at a Slam since his quarter-final loss to Jurgen Melzer at the 2010 French Open, and set Wawrinka up with a semi-final against Czech seventh seed Berdych.
Today’s last-four clash will be Wawrinka’s second-straight Grand Slam semi-final, after losing to Djokovic at last year’s US Open, also in five sets. And Wawrinka now has a great chance to reach his first major final, as he leads Berdych 8-5 in their career meetings and got past the Czech over four sets in last year’s US Open fourth round.
The calm Swiss with the rapier one-handed backhand said he had no doubts he will be mentally prepared to handle the challenge of Berdych, who beat world No. 3 David Ferrer in the quarters.
“I think the most important [question] is will I be ready physically, because it was a tough battle against Novak,” he said. “But mentally, I’m going to be ready, for sure. I’m happy to be here. I’m playing good tennis. There is no sign that I’m not going to play well in the semi-final. I’m still far from winning the tournament. Two matches, and the most difficult ones.”
Much has been made of the improvement in Wawrinka’s tennis over the past 18 months as he shows the fruits of his work under Swedish coach Magnus Norman, a semi-finalist at the Australian Open in 2000.
At last year’s edition, Wawrinka was ranked 17, now he is No. 8 and could even supplant his great friend Roger Federer as Switzerland’s No. 1 player at the end of this tournament.
“Last year, I made a big jump. I trust myself when I go on court. I know that I can beat those players. I try everything to beat them. Even when I lose, I go back and practice to try to improve,” he said. “We have had some amazing results already together. It’s my second semi-final with Magnus. He’s pushing me every day on the practice court before and after matches. He’s a great guy and a really good coach.”
Now Berdych, a Wimbledon finalist four years ago stands between him and a place in Sunday’s Australian Open final.
“For sure it’s a big chance. Berdych has been playing well in the tournament. He’s going to be a tough player to beat. He’s already made one Slam final and he’s made a semi-final in every Grand Slam,” Wawrinka said.
Berdych’s confidence is also sky-high after overcoming committed Spanish baseline slugger Ferrer in four sets, and he is primed to achieve his greatest career success by winning in Melbourne.
“It would be really the top of my career so far, definitely. I mean, there’s no question about it,” he said. “But we still have two matches left. If you look at the opponents that you might face in the semis and possibly in the final, really that’s why you play tennis and why it’s so special when you get to the last stages of the tournament. So really I’m going to give it a try and see what’s going to happen.”