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Tennis: Modest Wawrinka plays down title chances

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Stanislas Wawrinka modestly played down his chances of winning the Australian Open on Tuesday despite stunning defending champion Novak Djokovic to reach his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final.

The Swiss eighth seed, with an ode to persistence by Irish poet Samuel Beckett tattooed on his forearm, has endured a long, hard struggle before finally dethroning the three-time defending champion.

But he refused to get ahead of himself despite causing the greatest upset of a tournament which has also seen shocks to women's top seed Serena Williams and world number three Maria Sharapova.

Wawrinka, who will face Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals on Thursday, said: "I'm still far from winning the tournament. Two matches, the most difficult matches.

"But I'm not thinking at all about that, to be honest. I'm thinking match by match. Tonight I'm going to enjoy the victory of today because I think it's important.

"That's why I've played well over the last year, because I'm enjoying my life, I'm enjoying the tennis.

"When I win, it's important to be just happy, because I know it's not going to be every Grand Slam that I'm going to be in the semifinals."

Wawrinka's tattoo reads: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better", and he has stayed true to those words during his difficult rise through the ranks.

Tuesday's win was his first in 14 attempts against Djokovic, including five-setters at last year's Australian Open and the US Open where he pushed the Serb to the limit but fell just short.

After 12 meetings, he is yet to beat world number one Rafael Nadal, and he has just one win in 13 matches against fellow Swiss Roger Federer, whose great feats have usually kept him in the shade.

However, he has kept improving and under coach Magnus Norman, he reached last year's US Open semi-finals -- where he was stopped by Djokovic -- and is now in the last four in Melbourne.

"Well, I think for sure it's a really, really strong generation. The top four guys, Roger, Novak, Rafa, Andy. They have been winning every Grand Slam for many, many years," Wawrinka said.

"They are just better players than us, than all the rest. They are just amazing fighters, amazing players. That's why they always win everything.

"You have to deal with that. You have to fight. I know that the only thing I can control is what I'm doing off the court: my practice, how I do my schedule. I always try to improve."

He added that Tuesday's victory had its roots in his failures against Djokovic, when he realised he had the tools to go the distance with the six-time major champion.

"I think last year I took a lot of confidence with those (matches) with Novak. It was really close. I was playing good. We always have great battles," he said.

"I came on the court tonight with a lot of confidence on myself, knowing that if I play my best game, I always have a chance against him."

th/pdh

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140121/tennis-modest-wawrinka-plays-down-title-chances