MELBOURNE: Stan Wawrinka mastered former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets to reach his third Australian Open semi-final after a mid-match argument on Tuesday.
The world number four won 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours, 15 minutes for his eighth Grand Slam semi-final appearance and will next face either Swiss legend Roger Federer or Germany’s Mischa Zverev.
It puts the three-time Grand Slam champion, the winner in Melbourne in 2014, just one victory away from his fourth Slam final.
“It’s not easy to play against him. He’s a strong player,” Wawrinka said of Tsonga.
“I think (the) conditions were quite fast today. It was a bit windy. Not easy to control (the ball).
“I started to move a bit better and be a bit more aggressive from the first shot. I think that’s what made the difference.”
It was a consummate performance from Wawrinka, with three service breaks from three break points, hitting 41 winners, 21 of them on the forehand, and just 28 unforced errors.
Yet there were some tense moments between the two with an extraordinary squabble breaking out after Wawrinka took the opening set in a tiebreaker.
During the terse conversation in French, Wawrinka was heard to tell Tsonga, “You’re the one who’s looking and talking to me” and then, “Relax, it’s just a tennis match.”
The interchange follows an incident at the 2014 Davis Cup final when the French team confronted Wawrinka over a comment he made during Switzerland’s victory in Lille.
– Watching brief –
Of his next opponent, Wawrinka said: “I’m going to watch the match tonight, for sure.
“It’s going to be an interesting match. Mischa was playing really well at the beginning of the tournament. He’s a tough player.
“I’m expecting Roger to play aggressive. He’s playing so well and we are all happy to see him back on the court and also playing so well because we all enjoy to watch him.”
It was the fourth meeting between the pair at a Grand Slam, but the first away from Roland Garros, with Wawrinka now winning three of his encounters with Tsonga.
It was also their first meeting on a hard court in almost a decade, having contested their last six encounters on clay.
Among Wawrinka’s three major triumphs is his win over Rafael Nadal in Melbourne three years ago, when he became the first player to defeat the top two seeds en route to a major title since Spaniard Sergei Bruguera won Roland Garros in 1993.
Wawrinka also won the 2015 French Open and last year’s US Open, both times conquering Djokovic.
Games went with serve in the opening set and in the tiebreaker, with Wawrinka prevailed on the first of his four set points.
Tsonga got the first break of the match in the seventh game of second set, but the Swiss world number four broke him in his next two service games to grab a two sets lead.
Wawrinka fought off break points in the opening game of the third set before breaking the Frenchman and holding on to the break to the end.