Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka cruised into the Australian Open semi-finals where he meets compatriot Roger Federer on Thursday January 26 in what’s set to be a fiery Swiss encounter.
Wawrinka produced a marvellous performance against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, dictating most points through his sniper-like backhand to win 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 14 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena.
It wasn’t without drama, though, which seems a normality when both men occasionally meet. After the world No 4 won the first set on a tie-break, Tsonga seemed agitated at Wawrinka looking at him too much, which sparked a heated exchange of words.
The 2014 Australian Open champion has forever it seems, been forgotten in the ever-growing shadow of 17-time Grand Slam winner and close colleague, Roger Federer.
Wawrinka has always spoken with tremendous respect for one of tennis’ greatest ever players, and after his quarter-final victory, the 31-year-old said Federer’s a joy to watch but hopes he has some support on Thursday.
“If I play Roger, hopefully I will have some fans and someone will cheer for me,” Wawrinka said. “We are all really happy to see him back on the court and playing so well because we all enjoy to watch him.
“He’s been playing so well since the beginning of the tournament, it will be really fun to play against him in the semi-final.
“I will have to play my best tennis to have a chance of beating him, so let’s see.”
Wawrinka has played his Swiss counterpart 21 times over twelve years, but has managed just three wins – Federer claimed recent back-to-back victories in 2015 at the US Open semi-final stage and ATP World Tour Finals in London.
In a gradual, never-ending process, Wawrinka has changed an overall perception of being ‘the other Swiss tennis player’ or ‘the Swiss who isn’t good enough to win a Slam’ by doing just that in becoming 2014 Australian Open champion.
Success at the French Open in 2015 followed – Wawrinka beat Federer in the quarter-finals in straight-sets en route to his maiden Roland Garros, and then he was crowned US Open champion in 2016.
Federer – who will admit to being one of the proudest to see Wawrinka flourish, says it came as a surprise when he won at Melbourne Park in 2014, and remembers passing on his knowledge to Wawrinka during his earlier years.
“If I would’ve called for any slam he was to win, it would have always been the French because he moved so effortless on clay,” the four-time Australian Open champion said. “That’s his base, that’s his DNA, really.
“He’s always been a believer that he can do it, and it shows how far you can go.
“I remember giving Stan a lot of advice on how he should play certain guys. What I liked with Stan, if I would tell him something, I felt like he was able to do it, and that showed me that he’s a great player.
Federer crushed Andy Murray’s conqueror Mischa Zverev in straight-sets 6-1 7-5 6-2 to reach his thirteenth semi-final in fourteen years at Melbourne Park.
When asked how he will try and negate Wawrinka’s strengths, Federer said: “For me to play against Stan, I think I’ve always got to stay aggressive, the more time I give him, the better he is.
“I’m happy for him that he’s got this far, but he doesn’t need to go a step further.”
A victory over Federer in Thursday’s semi-final clash, and claiming his fourth Slam may finally see Wawrinka sat among the current stars of today’s game.