Stanislas Wawrinka outlasts Tomas Berdych in tightly contested semifinal
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Switzerland is guaranteed at least one man in the Australian Open final. And it's not the one people are accustomed to seeing.
No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka defeated No. 7 Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) on Thursday to make his first Grand Slam final. Wawrinka, who upset three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, will contest the final against either No. 1 Rafael Nadal or fellow Swiss Roger Federer, the man who both keeps his career in the shadows and helps mentor him into the spotlight.
The match was a tight one, dictated by serving and offense. Of the 285 points played, 72 percent lasted fewer than five shots and only 26 went more than nine. Berdych failed to play his best in the crucial tiebreakers (there were three of them). He double-faulted three times in the last two tiebreakers and gave Wawrinka the breathing room to run away with them. After three hours and 31 minutes, Wawrinka booked his spot in the final in his 36th Grand Slam appearance.
"Basically the game plan was working nearly perfect," Berdych said. "But just the tiebreak is always a big lottery, and he was the lucky one today."
Game-by-game analysis of Wawrinka's big win below:
7:10 a.m. ET | Stanislas Wawrinka beats Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) to advance to his first Slam final at the Australian Open.
Here's how the tiebreaker played out:
The crowd roars as Berdych steps to the line to serve first.
1-0, Wawrinka: Immediate mini-break for Wawrinka, as Berdych comes in on a chip return and Wawrinka dips a backhand pass that the Czech can't handle.
2-0, Wawrinka: Big serve gets a short reply that Wawrinka hammers with a forehand down the line and Berdych sails a defensive shot long.
3-0, Wawrinka: Another big serve jams Berdych and he sails a backhand return long.
3-1, Wawrinka: Not enough stick on the forehand chip return from Wawrinka this time and Berdych takes control.
4-1, Wawrinka: Are you kidding me? Berdych double-faults. Seven for the match, including three in the tiebreakers.
4-2, Wawrinka: Berdych gets one mini-break back and the men change sides. Heavy-hitting rally down the middle and Berdych breaks it open by getting his feet around a forehand and hitting deep to the corner. Takes the rally.
5-2, Wawrinka: Ace. He taps his racket on his head. 18 aces for him tonight.
5-3, Wawrinka: Another chip returns lands too short and Berdych clubs it with a forehand. 141 points to 141 points.
6-3, Wawrinka: Another short chip return but this time Berdych sends the forehand long. Match points to guarantee a Swiss man in the final.
6-4, Wawrinka: Double-fault! Understandable given the nerves and what's at stake. But still ...
7-4, Wawrinka: Big serve down the middle and Berdych directs the return long.
Stanislas Wawrinka, ladies and gentlemen. A cagey win for the Swiss. He broke Berdych just once, but he protected his serve and was never broken. Wawrinka finished with 18 aces, 57 winners and 49 unforced errors, and he won one more point (143) than Berdych. The Czech finished with 21 aces, 60 winners and 49 unforced errors. But those three double faults (he hit seven in the match) killed him.
"[Federer] texted me last night and told me he was so happy to have two Swiss guys in the semifinals," Wawrinka said. "I told him for you it's normal. For me, it's not normal. I will watch the [Federer-Nadal] match on my TV, maybe with some popcorn."
7:00 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, tied 6-6*.
Wawrinka opens with a double fault, then holds with authority. His serve speed has dropped as the match has worn on, but that doesn't mean Berdych has had any looks. The Czech has still had only one break point in this match and he failed to convert it. That said, if this goes to a tiebreaker -- zero emphasis on "if" -- it could give Berdych more looks on the returns.
Both players get a little sarcastic with the umpire, who disallowed a Berdych serve at 40-0 because of fan noise. The guys don't care and just want to play on. Berdych stares at him before his next serve as if to say, "Can I serve now?" and Wawrinka jokingly hold up his hand to hold him up. That's been the most entertaining moment of the last 30 minutes.
'Well, three hours and 18 minutes just seems to have whizzed by,' says commentator, as I decompose in my chair.
— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) January 23, 2014
He gets to 30-all on Wawrinka's next service game, but the Swiss slams the door shut with a big forehand winner down the line. He holds and we're into a tiebreaker.
6:47 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 5-4*.
Hold. Hold. Just bring the tiebreaker already.
6:36 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 4-3*.
Taking a look at the stats and they back up why there's not much to describe when it comes to rallies. 176 points have been rallies of fewer than five shots. Only 32 points have gone longer.
Wawrinka holds. Berdych holds. Meanwhile, the birds are circling overhead. Sending in reinforcements for their man?
6:32 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 3-2*.
Wawrinka holds at love. Are these guys just going to roll the dice in a tiebreaker? There hasn't been a break of serve since the first set.
Sure enough, Berdych holds at 30.
6:24 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 2-1*.
Wawrinka leaves the court for a break and when he returns he earns himself a third break point. Berdych bombs a serve into the corner to save it. Big opportunity here for Wawrinka. It's been a wobbly game from the Czech.
Sure enough, Berdych hits his fifth double fault of the match to give Wawrinka another break point. He saves it with an ace down the tee and follows it up with another. It's a six-deuce, 16-minute battle to hold for Berdych. He does. Barely.
Wawrinka responds with quick hold at 30. Berdych holds at 15. That should settle both men down.
6:03 a.m. ET | Stanislas Wawrinka takes the third set tiebreaker 7-3 and leads 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (3).
What a tiebreaker from Wawrinka, who takes it 7-3 after he earns an early lead and Berdych gets loose on his serve, finishing with two double faults.
Here's how the tiebreaker played out:
1-0, Wawrinka: Service winner directed at the Berdych backhand.
2-0, Wawrinka: Mini-break to Wawrinka as a nice backhand slice return off a second serve sets up the point and Berdych sends a backhand long.
2-1, Wawrinka: Nice hitting from Berdych forces the error.
3-1, Wawrinka: Huge kick serve and Berdych sends the backhand return out.
3-2, Wawrinka: He gets a look at a forehand running passing shot when Berdych doesn't put the overhead away but he nets it.
4-2, Wawrinka: Berdych double-faults. Ouch. Just his third of the night.
4-3, Wawrinka: He sends a forehand chip return long. You could cut the tension in Rod Laver Arena with a knife. No idea how this one will go.
5-3, Wawrinka: Berdych goes for a forehand return off a second serve down the tee and nets it. Big chance there and he missed.
6-3, Wawrinka: Big serve down the tee for a service winner.
7-3: Wawrinka: Berdych misses a first serve wide and he calls for the challenge. A good idea given he's double-faulted the last time? Probably not. After a little wait for the review, it's confirmed wide. He winds up for his second serve and ... sends it long by a yard. Wawrinka fires a lawnmower in celebration.
5:52 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, tied 6-6*.
On the first point of his service game, Berdych sprays a forehand wide. "COME ON!" yells Wawrinka. Then Berdych lets his racket do the talking. Wawrinka doesn't win another point in that game. Not sure standing so far behind the baseline is the right call for Wawrinka. He drifted pretty far back during that game and the Czech teed off. Great hold from Berdych to stop any change in momentum after Wawrinka got charged up.
Wawrinka falls behind 0-30 again on his serve but pounds his way out of it. Two aces and two service winners will do that.
We're headed for a tiebreaker as Berdych holds.
5:39 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 5-4*.
Berdych really has the measure of the match now. He looks so comfortable and Wawrinka is no longer doing anything to bother him. The Swiss is frustrated and his decision making is shaky right now. He's going for shots he shouldn't be going for and Berdych is just being the steadier player, working angles and playing very smart, controlled tennis.
Berdych gets a look at Wawrinka's serve at 0-30, but Wawrinka gets out of it with a big serve and some heavy hitting down the middle in a 15-shot rally that ends with a Berdych backhand into the net.
But one point later, thanks to a big Berdych down-the-line forehand winner after the longest rally of the match (20 strokes), Berdych sees his first break point. Big hitting from these two and now Berdych is outslugging his opponent.
Saved! Wawrinka goes for the off-speed serve and Berdych sends the return wide. He lets out his first big yell in a very long time. Adrenaline boost? He holds, lets out another "COME ON!!!" and that game may have snapped him out of his mental funk.
5:29 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 4-3*.
Wawrinka is starting to get sloppy with his groundstrokes, which could be fatigue, frustration or both. Credit to Berdych, who isn't letting him get away with anything right now. Berdych holds and Wawrinka already has 7 unforced errors in this set compared to Berdych's 3.
Wawrinka responds with a love hold. This set is moving quickly. Seven games in 24 minutes. No break points. No deuce games.
5:23 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 3-2*.
Easy hold for Berdych at 15. Wawrinka is still visibly frustrated by his predicament and he takes it out on the ball, crushing a 101 mph forehand down the line that elicits a very funny reaction from Berdych, who flashes a big smile to his camp.
5:10 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 2-1*.
Tough times for Wawrinka, who hasn't given up a break point and yet finds himself at a set all after an hour and a half of play. He starts with a hold, Berdych responds with a love hold, and Wawrinka holds again at love. Good, steady start for the Swiss in this crucial set.
Berdych really turned around his service games toward the latter stages of that second set. His win percentage on second-serve points is up to 63 -- he was 43 in the first set and 67 in the second -- matching Wawrinka. In fact, he came out of that set as the more successful aggressor, hitting 20 winners to 8 unforced errors (he hit just 6 winners in the first set), to Wawrinka's 18 winners and 13 unforced errors.
5:05 a.m. ET | Tomas Berdych wins the second-set tiebreaker to level the match at 3-6, 7-6 (1).
Perfect tiebreaker from Berdych, who steals the set from Wawrinka. Here's how it played out:
1-0, Berdych: Wawrinka sends a backhand long.
1-1: Big one-two punch from Wawrinka, punctuated with a monster forehand winner.
2-1, Berdych: The Czech gets the mini-break. Wawrinka mishits a ball that lands short, Berdych comes in behind it and Wawrinka nets the backhand pass down the line.
3-1, Berdych: Service winner.
4-1, Berdych: Another service winner from Berdych. Wawrinka expresses his frustration.
5-1, Berdych: Another mini-break to Berdych, who plays his best point of the match off the ground. Lots of heavy hitting. Good to see that aggression.
6-1, Berdych: Breaks open the rally with a big forehand down the line that leaves Wawrinka lunging for a return that goes out.
7-1, Berdych: Wawrinka puts the return into the tape.
4:59 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, tied 6-6*.
Wawrinka is closing the gap on aces. He hits three in one game to help with an easy hold. He has 9 aces for the match. Berdych responds with a love hold and brings his ace count to 13.
Looks like we're headed to the inevitable tiebreaker.
Berdych gets to 30-all and two points from the set, but Wawrinka wins the next point with some smart hitting behind Berdych and then follows it with an ace that clips the line.
4:48 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 5-4*.
Wawrinka holds at 15, finishing with two big aces and just politely taps the balls back over to Berdych's side of the court. Somehow that move looked a lot more swaggy than you'd expect.
The most impressive stat -- other than pure winners, which Wawrinka already has at 24 -- is the differential on second-serve points won. Berdych has won 40 percent, while Wawrinka has won 64 percent. That's why it seems Wawrinka is the more comfortable player. Well, that and he still hasn't given up a break point.
Berdych holds at love.
4:41 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 4-3*.
Wawrinka holds to 3-3. In case you didn't notice, Berdych still hasn't seen a break point.
"It would be a blowout if not for the big first serves," says Chris Fowler on ESPN. He's right. There's been just one break point in this match, which Wawrinka converted in the first set. The two are holding serve but it doesn't seem like a close match. Berdych is being outplayed. He's one of the biggest hitters in the game and Wawrinka is making his power look like a joke.
Sure enough, a big forehand winner from Wawrinka sets up his first break point of the second set. But Berdych saves it with a hard, flat serve wide to Wawrinka's backhand. Berdych gets out of a jam.
Fowler is complaining about Darren Cahill's and Brad Gilbert's use of the word "buttcap." Apparently it makes him uncomfortable but they are trying to explain why Nadal's racket grip is causing him blister problems. And it involves a buttcap. As Victoria Azarenka might say, "Deal with it."
4:29 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 3-2*.
Long discussion between Wawrinka and the umpire about a ball he didn't stop play to challenge. Sometimes these guys just get lonely and need to talk to someone to get their feelings out. He puts it behind him and holds.
Everyone talks about the Wawrinka backhand, which is fast becoming the best in the game (sorry, Richard Gasquet), but it's the forehand that is doing damage today. He's hit 9 winners off that side to just 2 off the backhand. Meanwhile, Berdych has hit just three forehand winners.
And just as I type that Wawrinka cranks and inside-out backhand winner that leaves Berdych motionless. That's a pretty shot.
But pretty or not, it's not enough to win the game. Berdych holds at 30 and gives himself a quiet fist pump.
4:22 a.m. ET | Berdych holds, leads 2-1*.
Berdych has to be wondering how he lost that first set so easily. After holding his serve to start the set, Berdych is still serving at a high level at 73 percent and has 6 aces. But three unforced errors cost him in the eighth game of the first set and that's how quickly it can run away from you.
Berdych gets some pressure on Wawrinka's serve but still hasn't seen a break point. The Swiss holds.
Berdych hits his first double fault of the match but it doesn't cost him. He holds, with his eighth ace, at 15.
4:10 a.m. ET | Wawrinka wins the first set 6-3.
An opening for Wawrinka here? New balls have been introduced and Berdych starts with two forehand errors to give Wawrinka 0-30. Berdych keeps trying to pull Wawrinka wide to the forehand but the Swiss forehand is sizzling already. He fires back a flat cross-court forehand and Berdych can't get a reply over the net. Big "COME ON!" from Wawrinka as he now has two break points.
Berdych comes into the net and Wawrinka sends up an high lob that should be an easy overhead smash for Berdych. He makes a mess of it and sends it wide.
Wawrinka gets the break and he serves it out without much drama. That's exactly the set of tennis Wawrinka needed. He takes the first in just 31 minutes.
This is Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne. Hundreds watching the screen, applauding every point. pic.twitter.com/ew5tzZaiFf
— DavidLaw (@DavidLawTennis) January 23, 2014
4:02 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 4-3*.
Berdych holds to 15. He's serving well, at 75 percent with four aces. Wawrinka responds with his own hold at 30, punctuated with a big ace.
No rallies in this match so far. Points are short and crisp with both guys taking big cuts to get a measure of the court and the conditions.
3:55 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 3-2*.
Monster forehand from Wawrinka to start Berdych's service game for a winner. That's some "big-boy" hitting. Two points later, he catches Berdych with a backhand pass to get to 15-30 on the Czech's serve. Poor forehand approach there from Berdych. Weak and no depth.
But Berdych reels off the next three points with some big serving. He's attacking Wawrinka's backhand in the ad-court. Expect to see that all night long. We'll also have to keep an eye on whether Wawrinka can get away with chipping his returns so often.
Wawrinka holds at love. I like what I'm seeing from him. He's getting good load on both his forehand and backhand, which indicates he's physically recovered in his legs. He was cramping toward the end of his match against Djokovic. He's already hit 8 winners to Berdych's 2.
3:47 a.m. ET | Wawrinka holds, leads 2-1*.
Wawrinka serves first and he gets an easy hold at 15. Berdych is wearing his ridiculous H&M kit that everyone has mocked, while Wawrinka is wearing his red-and-white Yonex kit. It looks like a Czech Republic vs. Switzerland Davis Cup rubber.
Getting ready ;-)... @AustralianOpen pic.twitter.com/HWlu2iSetw
— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) January 23, 2014
Interesting to hear from Darren Cahill that Wawrinka was extremely nervous coming out for this match. It's an entirely different mentality to be the favorite and somewhat expected to win, and despite his lower ranking, Wawrinka is the favorite tonight. We saw how well that went for the other giant slayer, Agnieszka Radwanska, early today. She knocked out the women's defending champion yesterday, came in as the heavy favorite against Dominika Cibulkova today, and lost easily. The good news for Wawrinka is that Radwanska's problem was fitness. She had only 24 hours to recover for her match. Wawrinka has at least had a day.
Berdych holds easily. His girlfriend, Ester Satorova, is actually wearing his ugly kit top in his support box. That's love.
Wawrinka has to fight through a deuce game on his serve but he holds. Court is looking pretty fast so far, which plays into Berdych's game.
No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 8 Stanislas Wawrinka will meet in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Thursday. The match is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET). ESPN will televise.
Wawrinka is the man of the hour after knocking out three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals to make his second Grand Slam semifinal in a row. The 28-year-old Swiss, coming off a breakout season in 2013, is seeking his first major final appearance.
Berdych has quietly coasted through the draw, with his four-set victory over No. 3 David Ferrer in the quarterfinals the only time he lost a set. That win made the 28-year-old Czech the only active player outside the Big Four of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to reach the semifinals of all four Slams.
"He's really close to the top, top guys," Wawrinka said. "It's going to be a tough battle."