Stanislas Wawrinka cruised in straight sets against Kei Nishikori to inch two wins closer to the defence of his Australian Open crown.
“I don’t come back to defend and I don’t come back to win. I come back to play a new Grand Slam. It’s not easy,” Wawrinka said in his on-court interview after Wednesday’s quarter-finals win.
The Swiss fourth seed blasted 46 winners to Nishikori’s 23, won 86 percent of points on his first serve and claimed 3 out of his 11 break points to seal a 6-3 6-4 7-6(8-6) victory at Rod Laver Arena.
Wawrinka will face winner of the day’s night lineup between top seed Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic in the last 4 on Friday and he is already excited about the prospect of facing the currnetworld number one.
“I think for sure it will be funny to play him (Djokovic) again. I will be happy to play him three straight year in a row,” Wawrinka declared. “We had some crazy matches in the Grand Slams in the past. Again, I’m not focused yet to play him. I need to see what’s going to happen tonight (against Raonic). If I have to play him, you know when you play Novak, especially in semifinal in a Grand Slam, you have to play your best game. You have to play your best tennis if you want to push him. So far I’m playing great. I’m confident with my game. I’m happy I won in three sets today. Let’s see. I’m going to get ready for the semifinal.”
Apart from a slight deep in form in the closing stages, Wawrinka aka Stanimal was in beast mode, combining pace and hard-hitting gusto to reverse the outcome of his loss to the same opponent at the same stage in last year’s US Open.
Wawrinka opened up a 3-1 lead in the first set with 12 baseline points to his advantage, while the Japanese had already gathered four errors on the trot. He missed out on two set points on the fifth seed’s serve at 5-2 but eventually served out the 31-minute set in the next game.
The 2014 US Open runners-up had chances on Wawrinka’s serve early into the second set but couldn’t sustain pressure. Again, the champ was prodding his opponent and after winning a 24-shot rally at 15-30 in the fifth game, he produced a big crosscourt backhand to pull 3-2 ahead.
Nishikori saved three break points in the seventh game but Wawrinka managed to go 5-3 up following up a back hand winner with a couple of aces. Indeed, the Laussane native had managed 30 winners to Nishikori’s 11 while serving for a two set lead at 5-4 and with everything going his way he was cruising into the third set.
Nishikori appeared to have found his rhythm at the start of the third set, when he finally broke his opponent to love to move 2-0 ahead.
But the crowd’s expectation of a comeback was snuffed out of reality by Wawrinka, who upped the antics and broke serve to love to return on level terms, smashing a backhand winner down the line.
The 3rd set entered tie-break and after failing to convert his fifth match point at 6-1, Nishikori reeled off five straight points to cancel out Wawrinka’s advantage at 6-6. The Japanese sent a drop-shot into the net to hand initiative back to Wawrinka, who closed out in two hours and four minutes on his sixth match point with an ace.
“I started really well… this time I was 6-1 up (in the tie-break), it’s never easy but you have to go for it. I’m happy to get through,” he continued in his on-court interview.