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Australian Open Day 11 Preview

By Chris Pike
23 January 2014 05:08AM EST

THE Australian Open women's finalists will be determined on Thursday afternoon before at night Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka do battle over the first men's final spot in Melbourne.

The 2014 Australian Open semi finals begin on Rod Laver Arena on Thursday with the two women's semi finals pitting world No. 4 from China and two-time runner-up Li Na doing battle with 30th-seeded Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard.

Next up on Rod Laver Arena is the second women's semi-final featuring two women looking to make an Australian Open final for the first time – world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska and 20th-seeded Slovak Dominika Cibulkova.

The night session on Rod Laver Arena will then also see two men looking to make the Australian Open final for the first time to then look to win a first Grand Slam title when world No. 7 Czech Berdych takes on world No. 8 from Switzerland Wawrinka.

The first women's semi-final of the day pits the enormously experienced Li Na from China who has been to a Grand Slam semi-final five times previously up against Canadian 19-year-old Bouchard who is there for the first time.

Li Na has won through to the semi finals by beating Ana Konjuh, Belinda Bencic, Lucie Safarova, Ekaterina Makarova and Flavia Pennetta while only dropping one set and that was against the left-handed Safarova.

And she is no stranger to success at the Australian Open with the 31-year-old having made two finals and a semi over the last four years.

She has also won the French Open in 2011 while making the semi finals at last year's US Open as well.

Meanwhile, Bouchard is experiencing all this for the first time but the former Wimbledon junior champion has qualified for the semi finals of the 2014 Australian Open by beating Hao Chen Tang, Virginie Razzano, Lauren Davis, Casey Dellacqua and Ana Ivanovic.

Li Na and Bouchard have previously met just the once before with the Chinese No. 4 winning 6-4, 6-4 in Montreal in 2012.

A victory will see Li Na reach her third Australian Open final and attempt to win for the first time while Bouchard could make a stirring run into the final at just her sixth Grand Slam appearance ever.

Up next on Rod Laver Arena is a battle between two women to have never played in the Australian Open final – Radwanska and Cibulkova.

Radwanska is in the Australian Open semi finals for the first time after making four previous quarter finals but she has previously made a Wimbledon final and a semi the last two years.

Meanwhile, this performance in Melbourne equals Cibulkova's best Grand Slam performance of her career that came back in 2009 at Roland Garros.

Outside of that she has only ever made three other quarter finals and this is her first time going beyond the fourth round in Melbourne.

Radwanska has advanced to the semi finals this year for the first time beating Yulia Putintseva, Olga Govortsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka along the way.

Cibulkova has put together the best run of five matches of her career so far beating Francesca Schiavone, Stefanie Voegele, Carla Suarez Navarro, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep.

The pocket dynamo from the Slovak Republic seems to have been around forever but is only 24 years of age and now in her 26th Grand Slam appearance, she could very well make her final.

Radwanska, the world No. 5, has also been on the verge of a Grand Slam title for some time and this could be her best chance with Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova all not reaching the semi finals.

Radwanska and Cibulkova have previously played one another six times before on the WTA Tour with the Polish world No. 5 having won five of them.

The most recent meeting was in Tokyo last year with Radwanska winning 6-3, 6-4 but Cibulkova did score a three-set win in Stanford during 2013.

Their only previous Grand Slam meeting came at the 2008 US Open with Radwanska winning 6-0, 6-3 in the third round.

Either way there will be a new Australian Open women's champion when Saturday night's final takes place with the participants in that to be known by late on Thursday afternoon.

It is then onto the first men's semi-final featuring two experienced campaigners in the form of their careers and desperately searching for the first Grand Slams of their careers – Berdych and Wawrinka.

Berdych had made the last three quarter finals in-a-row at the Australian Open, but broke through this year to advance at least a round further and he has done so in emphatic fashion.

The 28-year-old world No. 7 Czech has long shown an ability to be capable of winning a Grand Slam, but so far his best performance has been making the 2010 Wimbledon final.

Meanwhile, Wawrinka has also been in the form his career of the past 12 months with the 28-year-old from Switzerland having found more fitness, confidence, consistency and self-belief that he had earlier in his career.

Wawrinka's natural shot-making ability, particularly with his pure one-handed backhand, has also been obvious, but it has been over the last 12 months that he has turned that talent into being one of the best fighters on the ATP Tour.

He has now bounced back from heartbreaking Grand Slam losses last year in five-setters against Novak Djokovic at the Australian and US Opens to now be in the semi finals in Melbourne having beaten Djokovic to get there.

Wawrinka has only previously made one semi-final at major tournaments and now is a chance to earn his way into the first final of his career.

Berdych has qualified for the semi finals by beating Aleksandr Nedovyesov, Kenny de Schepper, Damir Dzumhur, Kevin Anderson and David Ferrer. He hadn’t dropped a set until world No. 3 Ferrer won the third set against him in the quarters.

Meanwhile, Wawrinka has beaten Andrey Golubev, Alejandro Falla, Tommy Robredo and Novak Djokovic with a walkover against Vasek Pospisil thrown in.

Berdych and Wawrinka have previously met on 13 occasions with the Swiss leading 8-5 in the head-to-head battles with two of those coming last year including in the fourth round at the US Open.

In fact, Wawrinka has won the last three matches against Djokovic and six of the last seven.

Berdych has won their only clash at the Australian Open, though, with that coming in the third round back in 2009 when the Czech won in four sets.

Even though the winner of the Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer clash awaits the winner, both Berdych and Wawrinka are in the form of their lives and after combining for 13 ATP titles between them, the winner on Thursday could now be a real chance of winning a Grand Slam come Sunday night.

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