Cham­pion is con­fi­dent he has the game to see off Djokovic

The Herald - Sport - - TENNIS. AUSTRALIAN OPEN - SI­MON CAMBERS

WHEN Stan Wawrinka beat No­vak Djokovic in the Aus­tralian Open last year, it was the best match of the tour­na­ment. When they meet again in to­mor­row’s semi-fi­nals, the bad news for world No 1 Djokovic is that the Swiss says he is play­ing even bet­ter.

Wawrinka’s five-set win in last year’s quar­ter-fi­nals con­vinced him he could go on to win a first grand slam ti­tle, some­thing he achieved a few days later by fin­ish­ing off an ail­ing Rafael Nadal in the fi­nal.

Djokovic, the four-time cham­pion in Mel­bourne, has looked im­pe­ri­ous to date, in­clud­ing in his 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Canada’s Mi­los Raonic yes­ter­day but Wawrinka stepped up another gear in beat­ing Kei Nishikori of Ja­pan 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.

Seem­ingly des­tined to live in the shadow of Roger Fed­erer un­til the great man re­tires, Wawrinka built on his Aus­tralian Open tri­umph by win­ning his first Masters 1000 event, in Monte Carlo, and then team­ing with Fed­erer to win the Davis Cup in Novem­ber.

For years, it seemed that for all his tal­ent, Wawrinka did not truly be­lieve he de­served to be in this kind of company but watch­ing him in Mel­bourne again this year, ev­ery­thing has changed.

“I think I am play­ing bet­ter,” he said yes­ter­day. “I think we all im­prove ev­ery year [but] I’m more ag­gres­sive. I’m more con­fi­dent with my game when I come to the net.

“It’s a grand slam. You play ev­ery two days. To­day was a great level, was a great match. Now I’m go­ing to en­joy a lit­tle bit and get ready for the semi-fi­nal.”

Djokovic, who coped well with Raonic’s gi­ant serve to progress, said Wawrinka might be feel­ing more pres­sure try­ing to de­fend his ti­tle. Wawrinka dis­agreed.

“I know that now I have a grand slam at home,” he said. “I won the Davis Cup also. I have the con­fi­dence from that. I know I can make it. I trust my game. I trust my­self on the court even when we start to play semi-fi­nal or fi­nal in a grand slam.”

“But for sure it will be funny to play him again. We had some crazy matches in the grand slams in the past. When you play No­vak, es­pe­cially in a semi­fi­nal in a grand slam, you have to play your best game. So far I’m play­ing great.”

With the ex­cep­tion of the first set, when he looked a lit­tle frus­trated as huge serves rained down, Djokovic looked calm against Raonic, con­serv­ing en­ergy for the bat­tle to come.

Chas­ing an eighth grand slam ti­tle, the Serb it not short on mo­ti­va­tion but said he might just take a look back at last year’s clash, just in case.

FA­MIL­IAR FEEL­ING: Stan Wawrinka is back in the fi­nal four at Olympic Park in Mel­bourne.

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