Who is it?
You must be joking. Opportunity never knocks twice on anyone’s door!
This is a light hearted take on the well known adage. An adage that Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych must bear in mind as they take the court today to battle for a spot in the final of 2014 Australian Open. These two talented players find themselves 2 steps away from the most coveted of prizes in the Tennis Galaxy – a Major title.
Berdych might scoff at the adage as this is another of many opportunities for him to make it to the finals of a Grand Slam. Berdych has now reached the semifinals at all the slams. This talented Czech who announced his arrival to the tennis world in spectacular fashion, 10 years ago when he dashed the Swiss Olympics medal dreams in Athens will be looking at this match as a great opportunity to take one step closer to achieve a goal that many tennis experts were certain he was always destined for – a Major title.
He has been in commanding form this fortnight, save for a blip towards the end of the match against David Ferrer in the semifinals. He will need to minimize such blips today, as his opponent has just used one such opening that Novak Djokovic provided to usher the 4 time Australian Open champion out of the tournament. Berdych will have to be decisive with his shot making and keep making those first strikes, for if he doesn’t Wawrinka most definitely will. The way Wawrinka is playing – he’s one of the 2 undefeated men this year [Can you guess who the other one is? ], Stan will need just one strike to end most of the points.
It all started for Wawrinka last year at this same venue. I can think of very people who have actually gained as much in a loss as has Wawrinka from his loss to Novak Djokovic in the 4th round of last year’s Australian Open. He has gone from strength to strength under the tutelage of Magnus Norman and he does not seem to show any signs of letting up. Exhibit A: His send-off to Djokovic in the Quarter-Finals. During this one year Stan has been courting the whimsy damsel called Greatness on and off. He almost knocked out Novak Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals. He briefly reigned as the Swiss No.1 ahead of that other Swiss player who can also play some tennis, last I checked. However, he seems to have taken the decisive step to major league tennis the other night in the Rod Laver Arena.
The biggest challenge, to Stan Wawrinka, could then come from himself. Has he recovered from that pulsating drama that unfolded two nights ago? Truth be told, I am still dazed from the flurry of winners that Wawrinka uncorked on that Champagne night for Team Wawa! This is where I believe Magnus Norman will play a very vital role. He has been through a similar path, about 5 years ago when Robin Soderling knocked out another repeating Champion at Roland Garros 2009. He knows that there is job still to be done.
This is pretty much a straight forward match when you look at what each player will have to do. They have to serve big and go after any short ball with aggressive intent and both players have their weakness in covering the court – very much so when transitioning forward. They are both very talented at the net, with great hands, but getting there is a problem – like many other top players these days. However, given the depth and weight of shot these two employ, I do not see drawing in an opponent as a great strategy either of these two will resort to.
In a match that I believe will be all about first strike tennis, I think Wawrinka is my pick as he has had to raise his game to a much higher league, courtesy of the World Number 2. He started shakily in his last match, but ended it in commanding fashion. I expect Wawrinka to start off where he left, though Berdych with his big game will always be waiting to take control of the match.
Prediction: Stan “The Stanimal” Wawrinka to make his first GS final in 4 tough sets.
Who is your pick Amiga/Amigos?