Wawrinka looks to step out of Federer shadow

Wawrinka looks to step out of Federer shadow

Stanislas Wawrinka has the opportunity to truly step out of Roger Federer’s immense shadow if he can only overcome a stubborn Tomas Berdych in their Australian Open semifinal on Thursday.

Wawrinka’s match against the Czech is the highlight of three semifinals at Melbourne Park on Thursday with women’s title favourite Li Na facing exciting teenage prospect Eugenie Boucahrd in one of the women’s last four clashes.

Diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova, who knocked out 2008 champion Maria Sharapova and destroyed 11th seed Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, will be seeking her second top-five victim when she faces fifth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the other women’s semifinal.

The eighth-seeded Wawrinka has spent his entire career as ‘the other guy from Switzerland’ as Federer chalked up 17 Grand Slam titles but he has cemented his credentials as a genuine top-10 player capable of anything over the last 12 months. That was none more evident than on Wednesday with a thrilling five-set victory over four-time champion Novak Djokovic, the second successive year he and the Serb have battled into a marathon deciding set.

Unlike 2013, however, the 28-year-old Wawrinka advanced to the final four to reach his second successive semifinal appearance in Grand Slams and the quietly spoken Swiss has finally felt like he belongs in the game’s elite. “I'm enjoying for sure because I'm playing great tennis. It's a different level if I compare to last year,” he said. “Now I'm number eight in the world. I'm making my second semifinal. Beating Novak here for me, for sure it's great ... but I'm still far from winning the tournament.

Wawrinka is well aware of the challenge he faces from Berdych, the man who he beat in the fourth round at last year’s US Open before the Swiss lost the semifinal to Djokovic, again in five sets. “He's going to be a tough player to beat. He already made one final in one Slam,” Wawrinka added of Berdych’s 2010 Wimbledon final loss to Rafael Nadal. “So he's there. He's really close from the top, top guys. It's going to be a tough battle, you know.”

Berdych has had a relatively comfortable run into the final four and, with Djokovic’s loss and Roger Federer beating Andy Murray in the final quarterfinal on Wednesday, the chance of a maiden Grand Slam has never been more open.

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