Chennai: Stanislas Wawrinka, who managed to sneak into the main draw as a wild card after a late decision to participate, justified the privilege by putting to sword top seed and world No 6 Tomas Berdych en route to the final of the Aircel ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament here on Saturday.
Wawrinka, the 25-year old Swiss and third seed, won 6-4, 6-1, to set up a title clash with 2007 champion Xavier Malisse from Belgium who earlier overcame Janko Tipsarevic, the sixth seed, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Wawrinka, a top 10 player in 2008 for 11 weeks before struck down by a knee injury, and presently ranked 21, showed little signs of fatigue following his 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win against Robin Haase in the quarter-final that was completed only around 2 am on Saturday morning following the rain delay.
"I was a bit tired today, but was fresh for the match. I remained focused and that was the reason I won. It is always good to finish the semi-final early and I will be fresh for the final on Sunday," said Wawrinka.
The Swiss No 2 played a steady game, opting for the percentage shots while the 25-year old Berdych, a Wimbledon finalist last year, who had not dropped a set en route to the semis, looked at odds, neither serving well nor hitting the right length.
In the event, it was last year's finalist Wawrinka who took a grip on the proceedings and a service break in the fifth game helped him go 1-0 up while Berdych appeared rather despondent.
Wawrinka, a doubles gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics in the company of Roger Federer, then applied more pressure to break the Czech star thrice more, in the first, fifth and seventh games, to wrap up the 66-minute match that ended when he left Berdych stranded at the net with a delightful lob to the backcourt.
Earlier, Malisse played some inspired and aggressive tennis that brought back memories of his 2007 season that unfortunately was cut short owing to wrist and knee injuries.
Conceding four years to the third seeded Tipsarevic, Malisse stayed in the contest after losing the first set when he decided to throw caution to the wind and assert himself.
"When you are a set down, you need to take some risks. You have to take it to them as they are too good to just stay back. I did just that and went for my shots.
"I also became aggressive in the second set and he began to make mistakes. I got my backhand down the lines going and started feeling better and better," said Malisse who has had to deal with injuries that perhaps denied him a much higher ranking than the current 60.
The 24-year old Tipsarevic, who had started on a promising note, allowed himself to slip up as his serve deserted him and unforced errors crept into his game.
The Serbian No 2 had begun the proceedings with a break in the second game on way to winning the first set, but came apart thereafter as Malisse turned on the heat.
The Belgian bounced back with breaks in the second and fifth to take the second set and repeated the performance in the decider to win the match in one hour, 37 minutes.
For Malisse, it has been a good start to the year as he hoped to build on it to achieve strong results, though he is aware of the vagaries of pro tennis that have pegged his career.
"Obviously, it has been frustrating as I had to deal with injuries to my wrist and knee after winning here in 2007. The following year, I injured my other wrist, dropped to 300s and had to start all over again," Malisse said reviewing his career that has never really taken off.
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