Wawrinka who for most part of his career has lived under the shadow of his illustrious Swiss compatriot Roger Federer proved he is at the peak of his prowess and on his day can match any of the BIG FOUR as he avenged his 5 set US Open quarter-final loss at the hands of Kei Nishikori of Japan. He rode his blistering single handed back hand to a straight set demolition of the no. 5 seed who bravely saved 4 match points in the third set tie-break before surrendering 6-3, 6-4, 7-6. Novak Djokovic was too strong for Milos Raonic of Canada winning the only match played in the evening session 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. The no. 8 seed Raonic who was pushed all the way by the tall left handed Spaniard Feliciano Lopez as he took five sets to progress and the effort proved too much for the Canadian who became the first player born in the 1990s to finish inside the top ten ATP ranking in 2014. The first set was settled by a tie breaker and despite having a 83.33% (5-1) tie break winning percentage in 2015 he could not match the Serbian no 1 who returned service in masterly fashion against hard serving no 8 seed who was runner up in Brisbane in Federers 1000th match win.
The spectators will get to watch the greatest single handed backhand of all time [arguably] against the greatest double handed backhand of all time[arguably]. Wawrinka stepped up the aggression on his groundstrokes to a higher level in his match against Nishikori and the results that the game plan has generated will prompt him to keep sticking to the same strategy in the semi-finals as well. The World No.1 will have to be on his best form on offense and make sure he gets a fair share of the first strikes to preempt Wawrinka from setting the tempo for the match. This means Djokovic will have to come out with his serve blazing and be prepared to take the ball early on both flanks. Given the fine line that Wawrinka will be walking on with his ultra high risk game, only thing one can be assured of is that things will happen fairly quickly one way or the other. Should Stan tread that line successfully, we can expect a follow up to the two previous acts these two magnificent athletes have put up.
Novak leads the head to head 16-3 against Wawrinka and like the no 7 seed Tomas Berdych has yet to drop a set in five matches at the Open. They are also meeting for the third year running at Melbourne with Djokovic winning the fourth round encounter 12-10 in the fifth set in 2013 and Wawrinka winning in the 2014 quarter final 9-7 in the fifth set. Expect a blockbuster match again but few would bet against the 4 time champion; it would take a gigantic effort for the Swiss native to topple the World no 1. Looks like a repeat of the 2011 & 2013 finals between Djokovic and the Scotsman Andy Murray will be played out on Sunday, the first day of February.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@ ]