If the 2014 Australian Open isn’t remembered as one of the craziest Grand Slam events of the year, then it’s been a wild tennis season.
There have been a number of upsets during the Happy Slam, a phenomenon that is responsible for the elimination of most of the high seeds on the men and women’s sides.
Familiar faces like Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and David Ferrer have all been ousted already, leaving a handful of surprising semifinal showdowns.
Let’s take a look at the three being played on Thursday, make some predictions on the winners and more.
Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
When (local): Thursday, Jan. 23, at 11 a.m.
When (U.S.): Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, Tennis Channel
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|Court||Time (Local)||Matchup||Predicted Winner|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (Second match, not before 1:30 p.m.)||Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Na Li (CHN)||Bouchard|
|Rod Laver Arena||11 a.m. (Third match, not before 1:30 p.m.)||Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)||Cibulkova|
|Rod Laver Arena||7:30 p.m.||Tomas Berdych (CZE) vs. Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI)||Wawrinka|
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) vs. Na Li (CHN)
No one could have predicted that 19-year-old Eugenie “Genie” Bouchard would be taking on veteran Li Na for the rights to advance to the finals in Melbourne.
However, due to an immensely fortunate path, the young Canadian was able to scrap her way this far and is now one step closer to pulling off one of the most remarkable feats this tourney has ever seen.
She’s the first Canadian since Carling Bassett in 1984 to make the semifinals of one of tennis’ major events, dispatching former World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals—her first seeded opponent of the tournament. Given that Ivanovic was coming off a win over top-seeded Serena, you could also say that she beat an opponent playing her absolute best tennis.
Genie had beaten her Serbian opponent before, dispatching her 6-2, 6-2 at Wimbledon last year to kick-start what would be an eventual breakout season for the teenager.
It’s quite possible that Bouchard’s inexperience against big-game players is going to be her downfall against the 31-year-old Li.
The Chinese star has one Grand Slam victory (2011 French Open) under her belt, plus made the finals at the Aussie Open in 2013 and 2011. She’s seen Bouchard before, dispatching her 6-4, 6-4 during a 2012 Rogers Cup battle in Montreal.
Li will be looking to claim her first victory at this tournament in 10 tries, and it seems that her path has never been easier. It’s going to be a tough match, but so far Bouchard has been playing well enough to once again shock the world. She’s an emerging star and will put herself squarely on the map with a finals appearance in this event.
Prediction: Bouchard wins, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4
Dominika Cibulkova  vs. Agnieszka Radwanska 
This was supposed to be Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova’s side of the bracket, but both were upset by the time the quarterfinals were over to give us a most unlikely “Final Four” matchup.
There is a myriad things you can say about this showdown, but saying that neither is deserving of being here is not one of those. Cibulkova has blazed a path to the semis that included back-to-back-to-back wins over No. 16 seed Carla Suarez Navarro, No. 3 seed Sharapova and No. 11 seed Simona Halep.
She’s been dominant in each of these matches, only going to a third set in the fourth-round battle with Sharapova. Halep was downright embarrassed in the quarters, being quickly ousted 6-3, 6-0 to clear a path for the up-and-coming Slovakian star.
Radwanska’s journey wasn’t as difficult, but she faced her fair share of challenges. The most notable came in the quarterfinals, when she ousted back-to-back defending champion Azarenka, sending Vika home with two dominant sets in a 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 contest.
The Polish sensation is now looking to make her second finals trip in a Grand Slam, her first coming back in 2012 at Wimbledon. She certainly has a fighting chance, but it’s going to be tough. Cibulkova has been dominating some of the game’s best and will put up a major fight. This is going to be a three-set war of attrition that rages until a winner finally emerges.
Prediction: Cibulkova wins, 7-6, 4-6, 7-5
Tomas Berdych  vs. Stanislas Wawrinka 
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Djokovic was supposed to be here, vying against Ferrer or Berdych or whomever the tournament decided to throw at him in a vain attempt to stop the Serbian superstar from winning a fourth-straight Happy Slam.
However, Wawrinka threw a wrench in that plan during his quarterfinals showdown with Nole.
The Swiss veteran survived a grueling, five-set test against the three-time defending champion. He emerged victorious and now looks ready to finish the job by eliminating Berdych in the semifinals.
However, Wawrinka will have to hope that his body is fully recovered after his five-hour-plus match with the Djoker. He started taking measures to heal up almost immediately after match point.
❄️❄️❄️ pic.twitter.com/J4fLnWFsCn— Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka) January 21, 2014
Berdych was also tested last round, dispatching a pesky Ferrer in four sets to position himself for a first Australian Open final appearance. It would actually be the first championship match in Melbourne for either of these two competitors.
Who will win?
These two are quite familiar with one another, having met 13 times previously. Wawrinka has the slight edge historically, winning eight of those matchups. He’s also on a slight streak, knocking out his Czech opponent in three of their four meetings in 2013.
As long as Wawrinka is fit for this match he should be able to start 2014 off with another win. He just knocked out the most impressive of opponents and has all the momentum in the world going into this. He might get off to a slow start, but eventually the Swiss will advance to the finals.
Prediction: Wawrinka wins, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3