STANISLAS Wawrinka will try to break the “Big Four” strangle-hold on grand slam titles after beating Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-7 (7/1), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) to reach the Australian Open final.
The Swiss eighth seed stepped up on the big points at Rod Laver Arena yesterday to reach his first major final where he will meet Rafa Nadal or compatriot Roger Federer.
With only a single break of serve in the entire match, Wawrinka upped the ante in the decisive tiebreak, winning the second of three match points with a monster 132mph serve into Berdych’s body.
“I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. It’s amazing,” said Wawrinka, choking back tears. “I’ve worked really hard for so many years, trying to improve my game. Now I’m in the first final in a grand slam, so I can be only really happy.”
Wawrinka ended Novak Djokovic’s three-year reign at Melbourne Park in a five-set quarter-final classic and faced Berdych with queries over his fitness.
But he struck the first blow by breaking the seventh seed in the eighth game. The Czech committed a string of unforced errors to proffer a break point, then pushed an overhead smash wide.
A huge Wawrinka serve gave him a set point and he angled a devilish second serve into Berdych’s body to take it.
The next set went to a tiebreak, in which Berdych, having been largely outplayed in the rallies, played a succession of baseline winners to secure five set points – he only needed one.
The third set went with serve, although Wawrinka saved a break point at 4-4.
Another tiebreak arrived, and Berdych’s serve crumbled. A double-fault handed Wawrinka a crucial mini-break, and a second the set.
A deflated Berdych refused to yield, though, and dug in through another tense set.
Wawrinka had more composure in the final tiebreak and, fittingly, killed the contest with a blistering first serve that set him up for the biggest match of his life.
Berdych said his gameplan worked “nearly” perfectly. “The tiebreak is always a big lottery and he was the lucky one today,” he added. “I’m starting to get quite annoyed with losing matches in tiebreaks.”