MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The usually diplomatic Roger Federer didn't bother concealing his preference for semifinal winners at the Australian Open.
He wanted an all-Swiss final, the first ever in a Grand Slam. Eighth-ranked Stanislas Wawrinka held up his end of the bargain with a 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) win over Tomas Berdych to reach his first major final.
Now the pressure is on the 17-time major winner to complete the match up. The major obstacle in his path: a semifinal against Rafael Nadal.
Now it's Iron Stan's turn to sit back and watch two of the greatest players ever do battle Friday for the right to meet him in Sunday's final.
"For sure I'm going to really, really enjoy," Wawrinka said. "I'm going to watch the match tomorrow in front of my TV, maybe with some popcorn.
"I always try to watch when they play because you can always learn. You can always see the best tennis ever on the tour."
The 33rd installment of the Nadal-Federer rivalry — the 11th in Grand Slams — should be enthralling viewing. Wawrinka's joked that he'd prefer a walkover most of all, but likes the idea of a Swiss decider.
"My record against Rafa is not really good, and neither against Roger, but for sure to play a Swiss final will be amazing," he said. Federer "is the best player ever. For me it's my first final. To play against Roger would be amazing."
Federer is into his 11th consecutive semifinal at Melbourne Park — he has won five and gone on to win four finals.
"This one feels different because of the tougher times I've had in Slams," said Federer, who lost in the second round at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the U.S. Open last year when he was struggling with muscle injuries and getting to terms with a new, bigger racket. To get this far he had to beat 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.
He said he was inspired by Wawrinka's upset quarterfinal win over three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic. Federer watched it on TV and caught himself fist-pumping when Wawrinka won big points.
Left-hander Nadal has a commanding 22-10 lead in head-to-heads against Federer. His 8-2 lead in Grand Slams includes the 2009 Australian final and the semifinals here in 2012.
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