Australian Open semifinal preview and prediction: Wawrinka vs. Federer

It will be an all-Swiss affair when friends and familiar foes Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer square off in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday. Federer emerged from a quarter of the draw that included Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori.

Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer will be facing each other for the 22nd time in their careers when they battle for a place in the Australian Open title match on Thursday night.

Federer is dominating the head-to-head series 18-3 and he has never lost to his fellow Swiss on a hard court. All three of Wawrinka’s victories have come on clay; twice at the Monte-Carlo Masters (2009 and 2014) and once on the way to his 2015 French Open triumph. They have not met in more than a full year, as Federer most recently prevailed 7-5, 6-3 in the semis of the 2015 World Tour Finals.

Last season was a tough one for the 35-year-old, with a knee problem sending him tumbling all the way out of the top 16. That left him at the mercy of the Aussie draw, and he found himself in the same quarter as Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, and Tomas Berdych. Federer got past Berdych (straight sets) and Nishikori (five) before avoiding Murray, who was stunned by unseeded German Mischa Zverev. The 17-time Grand Slam champion promptly ended Zverev’s run 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

“Against Roger it’s always special because he’s so good,” Wawrinka noted. “He’s the best player of all time. He has answer for everything. But I managed to beat him in a Grand Slam, so we’ll see. Most important is that I step on the court and I play my best tennis…. He’s playing so well since the beginning of the tournament. He had a little bit some hesitation in the [first two] rounds, but since that he’s really flying on the court.”

Wawrinka has progressed in similar fashion. The world No. 4 struggled against Martin Klizan (five sets) and Viktor Troicki (one point from going to a fifth set), but posted more convincing wins over Steve Johnson, Andreas Seppi, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on his way to the last four. Wawrinka is through to the semis Down Under for the third time in his career and he is ultimately looking for his second title (2014) and fourth overall at a major.

“I think [Stan] and [Rafael Nadal] know my game (better than anyone else),” Federer commented. “Stan and I practiced so much together. With Rafa, I only practiced once in my life, whereas with Stan, I can’t even keep count anymore. Yeah, I guess those two guys know me very well.”

What Wawrinka knows is that his game does not match up well with that of his countryman. He does not have the heavy topspin to pound away at Federer’s one-handed backhand, which Nadal does with consistency. His backhand down the line can be combatted by Federer’s signature running forehand. Most importantly, Wawrinka lacks belief; he is well away of his futility against Federer on every surface other than clay.

This is not necessarily the 17-time major champion’s “last best” chance to win a major, but it is certainly an amazing opportunity. He won’t let it go to waste–not against Wawrinka at least.

Pick: Federer in 4

41 Comments on Australian Open semifinal preview and prediction: Wawrinka vs. Federer

        • haha yes… That was at least against Djoko.

          Anyway, Fed is through to the final! another 5-setter but this one was just over 3 hours so not demanding at all. Well doe to Fed! He has played a fantastic tournament.

          Now, Rafa needs to do his part! Please don’t lose to Dimi, Rafa. The title is yours to take now.

  1. so fed toughs it out. thought he was going to lose…..
    stan had the better winner to unforced errors ratio in the end which is surprising. usually stan hits lots of winners but also a ton of unforced errors.

  2. Fed seems to have more belief with his bigger racket to play Rafa in another GS final.

    Looking back, he did beat Rafa with his bigger racket in Basel in 2015.
    That was indoor hardcourt, and this is outdoor hardcourt slam.
    Will he be ready for it?

    Hope he does not go back crying second time.

  3. bet brad gilbert and chris fowler were down on their knees praying that fed would go through in that last set.
    they’ll be sacrificing to the gods tonight in the hope of getting a fedal final. network heaven for them…

      • amy,

        well he didn’t go away even after losing two sets so in that sense you can say he has self-belief. I guess he just did a bad job of handling nerves in that moment. Missing that break point and then facing pressure on his own serve was too much for him in that moment I guess.

        • stan has been bad at handling his nerves for a good while now vr. he may have won uso but has fallen to pieces in many matches last year where he could have played a lot better. his capacity to suddenly get in a mood out of nowhere and implode spectacularly is quite something…
          nice to see you btw vr – i don’t seem to have talked to you in a long time. the site is so much better when you are here…!

  4. I laugh every time Ricky mocks someone for their pick on a match. Ricky is a good writer who does know his tennis, but his picks are normally garbage overall. I remember him trying to be a handicapper for a few years, and it was awful if you followed his picks.

  5. hahaha Fed’s interview was cool. And he said he is the biggest fan of Rafa’s game.

    Dear Rafa, please make sure you make it to the final.


  6. Unreal. This even trumps rafas comeback in 2013. To reach a final in the first tourney back after injury is just unreal. And hearing his post match he is so much more humble now but hope it stays that way if he wins the open too

    • Vmk, yes he is off to a wonderful start but Rafa’s 2013 was excellence throughout the year. He won slams and ended the year at no.1. Fed’s just made a final yet so let’s see how it goes.

      • Yes vr definitely but it was at age 27. This man is beating players of in their twenties and the top players like there is no tomorrow?.

        • Berdych is in a slump; Kei should have won the first set at 6-2 but took it only in a TB wasting precious energy hence he ran out of steam and reinjured his hip in the fifth set.

          Fed had an easy opponent in the QF; Stan is the only major obstacle but he managed to tough it out.

          Rafa had AlexZverev, Monfils, Raonic and now Dimitrov. He’s 30 and also on an injury comeback so he’s faring not too bad too.

          What’s with the top ten these days? No.1 and 2 knocked out in first week, no. 7 too. No. 10, 5, 4 knocked out by a 35 yo guy, and no.6 and 3 by a 30 yo guy. Time for fresh faces in the top ten. Goffin the first fresh face in top ten this year.

        • Er….Berdych is 31, Stan too, M Zverev is 30, Melzer as old as Fed I think. So only Kei and Rubin (or is he a teenager?) are in twenties.

      • Exactly VR. Rafa made it to final at his first tournament though it’s just a 250 but he went on to win Brazil, Acapulco, IW, final of MC and then won Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and FO! He only lost early at Wimbledon and then went on to win Montreal, Cincy and USO, reached final of Beijing and claimed the no. 1 ranking, reached another final at WTF too.

        Rafa had a more serious injury then than Fed had last year; Fed in fact had started training for a while during the break, hence he’s physically fresh and fit now.

  7. Congrats to Fed. So three veteran multi slam winners through to the final(s); Rafa please join them and plays in the final on Sunday. Make it one better than Fed on comebacks by winning the title.

    Stan just making too much careless mistakes in the final set. He had Fed on the rope a few times but Fed just served well and hung tough.

    If it is Rafa in the final, I like Rafa’s chances for the title; he is a better big match player than Stan. If its Dimi then I think Fed will win his no.18th slam.

    • stan have beat the nightmare of Rafa Novak djokovic in two GS finals and even to Rafa in one final.. im sure Stan is a great big match player…dont take merits from Fed

      • Are you serious? You want to compare Stan to Rafa? Rafa could beat Fed in slam finals, Stan couldn’t beat Fed in a slam SF.

        Fed’s merit was to tough it out in the fifth. He could have finished the match well before the fifth set but played poorly to lose the third set. Stan really didn’t do much to win the third.

  8. Also i think it is time law of averages catches up and fed wins a gs final after losing three in a row.

    Another thought could we have the teverse of 2009 fed winning in five rafa in three in the semis and fed defeating rafa in five in the finals?

    • Don’t think Fed could last a five setter and beat Rafa in it. Like I said, Rafa has good chances of winning if he makes it to the final.

      Fed not as good as in 2012 and 2014, he has to finish matches quickly, lapses like in the third set today can be very costly in the final.

      • Fed’s mental is not really there if he plays Rafa.
        First serve % will drop to below 50% compared to his first serve when playing others.

  9. Stan never plays to his potential against Fed, he has a mental block that will last his whole career (which is disappointing).

    Nadal will destroy Fed in the final. I predict 3:0 or 3:1.

    Looks like the bookies will be giving 2/1 also

  10. First, Rafa is not in the final yet so we should all be focused on Dimi! If Rafa is aggressive and stays focused, but also firing FHs and dictating points instead of let Dimi do that, he should be fine. At this stage of the tourney every opponent is dangerous.

    I disagree Dimi will be more relaxed or have “nothing to lose” attitude! In fact he has everything to lose. This is his chance to reach his first GS final so he will be nervous. Rafa should capitalize on that and avoid his usual slow start!

    As for Fed I totally agree Wawa is his puppet and has huge inferior complexes and mental barrier when facing Fed. Even when Fed lost two sets I kept telling people around me that Fed was gonna win at the end.

    Fed is high on confidence. Playing well! Add to it great draw, faster surface to suit his game, night matches, two days of rest before the finals…what more can he ask for…

    • “Fed is high on confidence. Playing well! Add to it great draw, faster surface to suit his game, night matches, two days of rest before the finals…what more can he ask for…”

      None of this accounts for the mental edge Nadal has over him and the lefty to right-handed single backhand advantage.

      Fed crumbles against players he doesnt have the mental edge over.

      The bookies are giving money away @ 2.50 for Nadal to win the final.

      Fed Jnr will be the first and then Fed Snr.

      • Agreed. But one match at the time for Rafa and his fans! We had too much of the painful times and can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves…

      • Mark, I agree with you that the mental edge has always been a huge factor for Fed vs. Rafa in slams. I wonder how Rafa will do mentally in terms of not having been 1 win away from a major title in over two and a half years. I would think that it is won’t make much of a difference. Rafa is arguably the most mentally tough player of all-time, so I don’t like to compare him to other people. But history has shown that sometimes people can want something so much that they actually think too much and it affects them negatively. That being said, I would like to think that this won’t happen to Rafa. I just can’t help but be a little worried about it for Rafa when he hasn’t been his close to the big title in so long (for his standard). What do you think about this?

        • If Rafa reaches final nerves will grapple both of them. One chasing no 18 that he has been waiting for 4.5 years and other double career slam which is a huge milestone in itself .

  11. So Fed ended up winning in the end. I only stay up for Rafa! I thought he would get through. Now it’s up to Rafa to do his part.

    I am not going to talk about Rafa and Fed until Rafa beats Dimi! First things first! We know Rafa’s big advantage in the H2h with Fed in slams. History will be made no matter what in the final.

    I have to believe that Rafa can see the finish line and will show that mental toughness and fight.

  12. Nadal is in a zone. I watched the highlight against Raonic again just now. Nadal is hitting winners like he did in the 2008 Wimbeldon Final.

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