On Sunday night at 7.30pm, either Tomas Berdych or Stanislas Wawrinka will be an Australian Open finalist. It’s not quite what we expected.
This was the Djokovic lock-in part of the draw, the time in proceedings when the four-time champion would march in kingly fashion one step further towards title number five. But Wawrinka spectacularly stopped that. So the question now is, can Stan stand up?
The Swiss has been in a grand slam semifinal before. But he has never been in a final. And Berdych, standing between him and that achievement, has.
Ranked seventh and eighth in the world respectively, these two, both 28-year-olds, have played similar bit-parts on the tour. The role of nearly-men, those ranked below the best, but without that little something extra to actually be the best.
Wawrinka said it himself.
“It's a really, really strong generation. The top four guys, Roger, Novak, Rafa, Andy. They have been winning every grand slam since many, many years," the Swiss No.2 said.
“They are just better player than us, than all the rest. They are just amazing fighter, amazing player. That's why they always won everything.
“It's never easy. I have so many loss against them, it's always a tough challenge to play them. But, you know, I think last year I took a lot of confidence with those match with Novak. Was really close. I was playing good. We always have some great battle.”
Anyone who witnessed Tuesday night’s match, the third of his five-set epics over Djokovic, would have seen the belief in Wawrinka’s eyes. He never stopped trying, never stopped doubting.
Berdych had a similar epiphany that he can mix it with the world-beaters. In fact, he’s had it more than once.
Beating Roger Federer at the Athens Olympics was the first. Then again at Wimbledon 2011 to make the final.
"If you look at the opponents that you might face in the semis and possibly in the final, really that's something why you play tennis and why it's that special when you get to the last stages of the tournament,” Berdych said.
"So really I'm going to try to do the same - go one by one and let's see what's going to happen.”
But which one of them will put their best tennis in play against the other? Stamping their authority on the match rather than relying on the extra nothing-to-lose kick you get from being the underdog?
By the numbers, Wawrinka leads the head-to-head 8-5, winning six of the last seven. But on the stage of a grand slam semifinal, just two wins from a trophy, previous meetings can count for little.
“For sure a big chance,” Wawrinka said. “Berdych is playing well since the beginning of the tournament. He’s really close from the top, top guy. It’s going to be a battle.”
Where it will be won and lost, one would think, will be accuracy. Both players are capable of blowing the other off the court, Berdych perhaps more than Wawrinka, his extra few inches giving him greater wingspan and greater height on serve. Wawrinka has more spin, and a backhand that can switch from offense to defense in a moment.
But all their weapons are rendered useless if they are missing.
"I need to make the same approach as I did in those past matches, really believe in myself, believe in my game," Berdych said.
Which one will believe in himself more? That is the question.