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Wawrinka revels in final reward
The first all-Swiss grand slam final is tantalisingly close after Stanislas Wawrinka defied his own expectations to defeat Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open.
The 28-year-old had never made a grand slam semi-final until the US Open last year but followed up his stunning upset of defending champion Novak Djokovic on Tuesday by defeating Berdych 6-3 6-7 (1/7) 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (7/4).
Wawrinka will meet the winner of Friday's second semi-final between his countryman and close friend Roger Federer and world number one Rafael Nadal.
The world number eight said he would watch the match with some popcorn, adding: "For sure to play a Swiss final would be amazing - a first for Switzerland. He is the best player ever. For me it's my first final. To imagine to play against Roger would be amazing."
Wawrinka has long lived in Federer's shadow but since linking up with Swedish coach Magnus Norman last year he has emerged as a contender for the biggest prizes.
At the US Open he went further than Federer at a grand slam for the first time, but he insisted thoughts of reaching finals were far from his mind.
He said: "It's amazing. I didn't expect to make a final in a grand slam in my career. Tonight it's happening, so I'm really happy.
"I've been working really hard for many years, trying to improve my game, trying to get some big matches in big stadiums.
"Last year I had the feeling that I was playing better, but I was dealing better with the pressure also. I'm more mature. I'm 28 now. I've been on the tour for 10 years. Now I feel that it's my time to play my best tennis.
"The semi-final at the US Open, I was disappointed to lose against Novak, but I knew I was close with my level. But for me I was so far. It was not my goal at all to make the final in a grand slam."
Berdych had only made one grand slam final, losing to Nadal at Wimbledon in 2010, and the tension of the occasion was evident in both men.
Wawrinka secured the only break of serve in the match in the eighth game when Berdych missed a smash.
Both men had glimpses of openings in the next three sets only to see them snatched away.
Berdych produced a brilliant tie-break to level the match but the Czech played a significant part in his own downfall, with two double-faults in the third-set tie-break and another in the fourth.
Wawrinka, too, double-faulted on his first match point but on his second chance Berdych sent a return long.
"It was really close," said Wawrinka. "It was a strange game. I don't think we played our best tennis, but we served really well.
"To play a four-set match with three tie-breaks is rare but I tried to stay really aggressive in the tie-breaks, tried to go for it. My goal was to be more aggressive than him.
"I had the feeling he was really nervous and really tired because he gave me some points in the tie-breaks."
Berdych described Wawrinka as "the lucky one" and did not feel there was a difference between the pair.
He said: "If I would feel the difference then I would be nearly a genius. We both played great. We played a good match. Stan was the one that just took it.
"There was one thing that I missed, and it was my service game in the first set.
"Other than that I was able to play aggressive, not to make that many mistakes, attacking Stan, especially after those sliced backhands.
"Basically the game plan was working nearly perfectly. But the tie-break is always a big lottery, and he was the lucky one today."
Berdych praised Wawrinka and Norman for the work they have done, saying: "He's the player who made the biggest improvement of his game in the last year.
"When he started to work with Magnus, his tennis was really, really a different level. You can see it in the results."