World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will face No. 6 Andy Murray in the Australian Open final on Saturday night after he defeated defending champion Stan Wawrinka. Murray advanced on Thursday night against No. 7 Tomas Berdych.
To say the Berdych-Murray match was tense would be an understatement. Berdych hired Murray’s ex-coach Dani Vallverdu last fall, which the press discussed more than the upcoming match. The tension spilled over into an exciting first set. Berdych set off Murray with complaints about the ball while the Scotsman celebrated his points more than normal. Berdych won the set, but as he went back to sit down, he said “Good play, Tomas.” Murray complained to the umpire about he remark, but used it as ammunition to win the next three sets. He demolished Berdych in the second and third set. Berdych showed signs of life in the fourth, but could not regain from the first set.
After Murray won, he immediately pointed to his new coach, Amélie Mauresmo.
“A lot of people criticized me working with her and I think so far this week we’ve shown that women can be very good coaches as well,” he said. “Madison Keys, who reached the semis here and had her best tournament, is also coached by a woman in Lindsay Davenport and I see no reason why that can’t keep moving forward like that in the future. I’m very thankful for Amelie for doing it. It was a brave choice from her to do it and hopefully I can repay her in a few days.”
He also admitted there was tension leading up to the match.
“There was a little bit of extra tension,” he said. “It was a big match. A lot was made about Dani Vallverdu, my former coach, working with Tomas. But we’ve been friends since we were 15 years old and I felt that the focus was unfair and unnecessary. This is sport and there’s more to life than sport. It created a bit of extra tension, but everyone calmed down after start of the match.”
The Djokovic-Wawrinka match did not provide tension, but much confusion for spectators. Wawrinka defeated Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals on his way to winning his first Grand Slam. Djokovic was determined to get revenge, but Wawrinka did not make it easy. He won the match 7-6(7-1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 in their third consecutive five set match at the tournament. The match literally went back and forth with neither player able to hold onto momentum and filled with errors by both players. By the middle of the match, both players acted as if they were playing just to end it instead of trying to win a spot in the finals.
“I think it was more mental in a way, because once you back up and start playing defensively you spend a lot of energy,” explained Djokovic. “He was the one that was dictating the rallies. There’s no question about it. Some points of the match I did struggle physically to recover for the next one, because I run a lot and he was getting a lot of balls back in play. I didn’t have many free points on the first serve as I did throughout the tournament, so that was a significant change. But, you know, nothing that will worry me. You know, I’m sure that I’ll be fit and ready for finals.”
The men’s Australian Open Final airs Saturday night at 3:30 a.m. Eastern on ESPN.