We’re now well into the final week of the Australian Open, and we’re down to the last four, incidentally with only one from the ATP top four ranked players – Rafael Nadal. It is very unusual for one in particular, Novak Djokovic to be absent from the final, not to mention the semi-finals, as over the past three years Djokovic and Melbourne have become almost as predictable as Nadal and Roland Garros.
At his first slam since hiring Boris Becker, Novak has been ousted in the quarter-finals for the first time since the French Open in 2010. Prior to the shock defeat on Tuesday the Serb had progressed in immaculate form without even dropping a set.
Many said the partnership wouldn’t last and they could well be right. Of course it could just be a blip however it’s questionable to wonder how long Nole will be satisfied to persevere. On match point, the world number two tried and failed a basic serve-and-volley point – unusual for the baseline magician. It’s going to be interesting to see how things pan out for him in the lead-up to the next major.
2014 hasn’t been the Serb’s year in Australia, and instead a certain Swiss player gets a chance in the semis.
Stanislas Wawrinka’s revenge over Novak Djokovic was phenomenal. There was a vulpine 14-match streak of Nole victories laying over the world number eight as he stepped out onto Rod Laver Arena and it required a tall effort from the Stanimal, as nicknamed by compatriot Roger Federer, to win – that victory will give him spades of confidence but will the marathon take its toll?
Tomas Berdych awaits the single-handed backhand expert in a rather unlikely semi-final match-up. The Czech has had a quieter route, upsetting David Ferrer in the last eight.
Both players have looked very solid in Melbourne so far and, either way, will be first outside the top four to reach a grand slam final since Berdych himself, seeded 12, at Wimbledon in 2010. Stan doesn’t possess the experience of a major final to date but has improved heavily over the past year; meanwhile the Berd has stagnated on the outskirts of the top five.
In their most recent meetings, Wawrinka has the upper hand with an impressive record of three wins in their past three encounters. Expect a tight match with plenty of thrills and spills and appreciate the talent on offer outside of the very biggest names. I believe that the Swiss will pull through in five sets, the momentum of beating the four-time Aus champion Djokovic.
However, Wawrinka isn’t the only Swiss player in the semi-finals – his biggest fan Roger Federer joins him there. Federer reached this stage by beating Britain’s best chance, Andy Murray of course, in four sets. It was a tightly contested match, with Fed only managing the odd break to win three sets, and Murray taking the third on a tie-break.
Roger has looked quite honestly brilliant. His forehands have been just fantastic, powerful and accurate from the baseline and he controls the rally with ease. He’s also looked very confident, sneaking up to net to play a casual dropshot while his opponent is left stumbling at the baseline.
He had a couple of match points at the end of the third set against Murray, but did mess them up with a couple of amateur errors. Andy was quick to capitalise, playing well under the pressure of a tie-break, which is something he struggled with in his few preparation tournaments. Nevertheless, throughout the fourth Federer continued to run the Brit all over the court until he was panting. It was this attacking, intelligent play from the four-time champion that got him a break in the seventh game of the set which essentially sealed the deal. They served it out, Murray looking truly exasperated, for a Federer win: 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.
Click the link for the official match highlights (3 minutes).
It’ll be a very tough semi-final for Federer though, facing 2009 Autralian Open and recent US Open champion Rafael Nadal, who as always, has looked very good. I must confess now Djokovic is out I can’t see past the world no.1 for the title, but the shocks we’ve had so far, and considering the form Federer’s in – anything could happen.