Wawrinka bests Berdych to reach first Grand Slam final


The Sports Network

Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - Swiss slugger Stan Wawrinka upended big Czech Tomas Berdych on Thursday to reach the men's final at the 2014 Australian Open.

The eighth-seeded Wawrinka, playing in his 36th Grand Slam event, landed in his first career major final by taking out the seventh-seeded Berdych in 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4) fashion at Melbourne Park.

Wawrinka's opponent in Sunday's lucrative finale will be world No. 1 Rafael Nadal or fellow Swiss, sixth-seeded former top-ranked great Roger Federer.

"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 match on my TV, maybe with some popcorn."

Wawrinka and Berdych, both playing in their maiden Aussie Open semis, battled through four air-tight sets on Day 11 of the fortnight, and Wawrinka set himself up with triple match point in the fourth-set tiebreak.

The Swiss blew his first match point with an untimely double fault, but converted on his second when the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Berdych misfired long on one final forehand return.

The match ended after 3 hours, 31 minutes of big-hitting tennis, as Berdych swatted 21 aces, while Wawrinka fired 18.

Wawrinka tallied the lone break of the match en route to an easy first-set win.

Berdych then stayed close to Wawrinka in the second set, saving the only break point of the stanza in the seventh game to force a deciding tiebreak. The Czech would surge to a big 6-1 lead in the tiebreak, and ultimately closed out the set in 56 minutes.

Neither player was able to make a breakthrough in the third, though Berdych earned his first break point of the contest at 4-4. But after rifling a forehand down the line at 30-30, the Czech steered a backhand return wide as Wawrinka held on.

Mini-breaks were exchanged in the early stages of the third-set tiebreak 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 benefited from another double fault from Berdych to clinch the tiebreak and inch ahead.

"Basically the game plan was working nearly perfect," Berdych said after the match. "But just the tiebreak is always a big lottery, and he was the lucky one today."

Wawrinka is now 9-5 lifetime against Berdych, who captured their lone previous Aussie Open meeting back in 2009. Wawrinka also bested Berdych in the fourth round at the U.S. Open back in September.

The 28-year-old Wawrinka is building on a career-best 2013 season, which saw him reach his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open and qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals in London. He's unbeaten in 2014, opening his campaign by winning his fifth career title in Chennai, India.

The surging Swiss advanced to the semis here by dethroning three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in five sets on Tuesday.

Wawrinka is 5-9 in his career finals overall.

The other semi will be staged on Friday, when Nadal takes on his 32-year-old long-time rival Federer, who will be appearing in his 11th straight Aussie semi.

Nadal and Federer will meet for a 33rd time, with the Spaniard leading their all-time series, 22-10, including an 8-2 mark in Grand Slam action. Nadal is 2-0 versus Federer at the Aussie, including a win in the 2009 finale.

The high-flying Nadal has won four straight and eight of their last 10 meetings overall.

Nadal owns 13 major titles, including his lone Aussie Open one in 2009, and was also a runner-up here two years ago.

It will be the fourth semifinal appearance at the Aussie for the reigning U.S. and French Open champ.

The 17-time Grand Slam king Federer is a four-time Aussie Open champion, but hasn't won here since 2010.

The "Big Four" of Nadal, Djokovic, Andy Murray and Federer have combined to win 34 of the last 35 Grand Slam events.

Sunday's eventual champion will collect $2.35 million.

Read more Tennis stories from the Miami Herald

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