Without Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the tennis community honestly couldn’t have asked for a better semifinal than the one they will be getting when the world number one Novak Djokovic takes on the defending champ Stan Wawrinka (3.30am ET Friday).
In 2006, Wawrinka and Djokovic met for the first time at the ATP Tour level, with the Swiss man walking away with an easy victory after Djokovic retired in the middle of the first set tiebreaker. The two met 11 more times with Djokovic winning 10 of them, before their first head-to-head in a grand slam, the round of 16 at the 2012 US Open. Again, Djokovic emerged the winner, doing so in the midst of what was the beginning of his ascension to the pinnacle of tennis greatness.
It wasn’t until last year’s Australian Open, won by Wawrinka, that he finally beat his rival at a major, doing so in the quarterfinals.
As it stands, Djokovic leads the head-to-head by a score of 16 to 3. However, even though Djokovic also leads the major head-to-head at 3-1, only once did one of those matches not go the distance. Additionally, in the 2013 Australian Open, won by Djokovic, Wawrinka was the only one to take the champion a full five, losing only after a 12-10 score in the final set.
The Djokovic/Wawrinka rivalry has been one of intensity and competitiveness. Both players have gone on record praising the other and commenting on needing to play their absolute best to get the victory. Both players respect the other greatly and that in itself should make for a hard-fought, exciting match.
Fortunately, both have been playing great tennis in this year’s slam. Djokovic especially, has been spot on with his serve, an added bonus to his already world-class game. He has been broken just once in 73 service games throughout the first five matches
Up until this point, neither have been particularly challenged. Of course, that will all change in this semifinal, so holding with tradition, you can expect another five-setter between the two current giants of the sport and the two most recent Australian Open champions.
In the end, Wawrinka will put up a good fight, but my money is on Djokovic. He has been playing his best tennis and doing so at his favorite major. Anyone, even one of his greatest rivals, is going to have a hard time competing with that.