Photo: Paul ZimmerDominika Cibulkova (SVK)
Dominika Cibulkova produced a confident display as she followed up impressive victories over Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep with a straight sets defeat of world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, 61 62, to progress to her first ever Grand Slam final.
“I wanted to enjoy. Of course it was not easy when I was up in the second set. The thought started to come that I could win, the result, and everything. I have to say, I was 100% ready for it and I was just doing what I had to do. That's why I won.”
The 24-year-old Slovak has made light work of a tough draw to reach the final having only dropped one set despite her previous best performance in the event being the fourth round in 2009 and having faced four consecutive matches against higher seeds.
“I didn't spend so much time on the court. I'm in the finals of Grand Slam. The only three‑set match was against Sharapova. That's something unbelievable. But I was going into every match just to play my game and play well.”
By contrast Radwanska had faced a series of tight battles to reach this stage, including a back-and-forth match against Victoria Azarenka just 24 hours earlier which she admitted took its toll and prevented her being truly competitive against Cibulkova.
“I think I feel like in slow motion today. I had a couple tough matches, especially yesterday…I think I was not fresh enough,” lamented Radwanska. “We are just human beings. We are not machine.”
The other semifinal saw Li Na progress and she will look to make it third time lucky, having been beaten in the final twice in the previous three years in Melbourne.
Li has hardly looked back after saving match point against Lucie Safarova in the fourth round, breezing past Ekaterina Makarova and then Flavia Pennetta before ending 19-year-old Eugenie Bouchard’s run at the tournament, 62 64.
The Chinese No. 1 made a fast start to the match taking the first five games but Bouchard worked her way back into contention, breaking to open the second set and looking like she had turned the tide in her favour.
“I think beginning of the match I play very well. Second set was a little bit tight because I was feeling, yeah, one set is target,” explained Li. “Is more like pretty feeling one feet already in the final…when she broke my serve, I say, ‘Okay, let me just try to play point by point because the match still have to continue.’”
The result always seemed to be on the racket of Li as she hit 35 winners compared to just ten for her opponent and took advantage of the Canadian’s second serve to prevent the comeback.
The first men’s semifinal took place in the night session and saw Stanislas Wawrinka defeat Tomas Berdych in four tight sets, 63 67(1) 76(3) 76(4), as he will also make his first appearance in a Grand Slam final.
“I feel great. It's amazing, you know. I didn't expect to make a final in Grand Slam in my career. Tonight it's happening, so I'm really happy.”
“I'm working really hard since many years, try to improve my game, try to get some big match in big stadium. Now I'm the first final in a Grand Slam, so I can be only really happy.”
Both men looked imperious on serve with just a single break in the match going the way of the world No. 8 in the first set as he only ever allowed Berdych one opportunity at a break point.
It was the serve of Berdych that seemed to ultimately decide the match as it deserted him at the key moments in the tiebreaks, hitting two double faults in the third set decider and another at the fourth set.
Wawrinka now awaits the winner of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who play tomorrow. His record against either opponent is not promising having only one victory in a combined 26 matches against the pair but he has already upset similar odds once this fortnight when he scored a victory against Novak Djokovic having previously lost 14 in a row.
The men’s doubles finalists were also decided on Thursday with Erik Butorac and Raven Klaasen continuing a dream run as they defeated the seasoned pairing of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, 62 64.
They will face Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt, a pairing who had never won a match together prior to the event. Both men are looking to win a first major title with Lindstedt having fallen short in three consecutive Wimbledon finals while Kubot’s previous best was a semifinal appearance alongside Oliver Marach.