Australian Open 2014: Rafael Nadal’s pain brings an end to Stanislas Wawrinka’s long wait for a major crown

It was the Swiss No 1's first ever victory over Nadal

Melbourne

The quote from Samuel Beckett that Stanislas Wawrinka has tattooed on his left arm has never been more appropriate. It says: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

At the age of 28, after many years as a journeymen professional, Wawrinka is a Grand Slam champion, even if his victory last night in the final of the Australian Open might never have happened but for a back injury suffered by his opponent.

In beating Rafael Nadal  6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, Wawrinka became only the second man outside the game’s Big Four to win a Grand Slam title since the 2005 Australian Open. Until last night, Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had between them won 34 of the last 35 Grand Slam tournaments, with Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 US Open triumph the only exception.

“I never expected to win a Grand Slam,” Wawrinka said. “I never dreamed about that because, for me, I was not good enough to beat those guys. It shows me that I’ve been doing the right thing for many years. If you practise well, if you work hard, you will always have a chance to be in a great position to play your best tennis.”

As for the tattoo, Wawrinka said that Beckett’s words had been “in my head for a long time”. He explained: “It was part of my life, how I see life, and especially how I see tennis life. Before today, I always said that unless you are Roger, Rafa or Novak, you lose every week.

“When you lose it’s tough to take a positive from a defeat, from failing at a tournament. In general that’s how I see my career. I always go back to the court. I always go back to practise, to try to improve myself and to give myself the best chances to beat the best players in the world.”

 

Wawrinka, who said that there was “a big chance I will get drunk tonight”, won his first Grand Slam title at the 36th attempt. In the Open era only Goran Ivanisevic, the Wimbledon champion in 2001, has played more tournaments (48) before breaking his Grand Slam duck.

There were other significant milestones too. Wawrinka is the first player to beat both Nadal and Djokovic in the same Grand Slam tournament and the first to beat the top two seeds to win a Grand Slam title since Sergi Bruguera got the better of Pete Sampras and Jim Courier to claim the 1993 French Open.

Wawrinka will climb today to a career-high position at  No 3 in the world rankings and will overtake Federer for the first time to become the Swiss No 1. Federer was one of the first to phone Wawrinka to congratulate him. “Roger is a good friend,” Wawrinka said. “He always wants the best for me.”

In the long term it hardly matters, but we will never know what the outcome would have been had Nadal not suffered a back injury in the warm-up before his 19th – and surely most bizarre – Grand Slam final. The Spaniard could barely run or serve by the time he had lost the first two sets, but his condition improved a little after treatment.

A pained Rafael Nadal reacts between games A pained Rafael Nadal reacts between games

At the same time as Nadal started to move a little more freely, his opponent lost the plot. Wawrinka, who had not won a set in his 12 previous meetings with Nadal, played abysmally in losing the third set before finally getting his head back together in the fourth.

The Swiss had looked in superb form in the early stages, hitting the ball with great power from both flanks. He broke to lead 3-1, only to go 0-40 down when he served for the opening set. Nadal, however, giving the first indication that he was experiencing physical problems, hit a succession of poor returns and Wawrinka won five points in a row to take the set.

By the time Wawrinka had made it 12 winning points in succession in the second game of the second set, it was clear that Nadal was in trouble. At 2-1 down he went off court for treatment, returning, bizarrely, to boos from the crowd, who perhaps thought they were being denied value for money. Nadal appeared on the verge of tears as his serve slowed down almost to a standstill and he barely moved around the court.

In the third set, nevertheless, the world No 1 started to feel the benefits of his treatment. Although he was still serving tentatively and moving with much less freedom than usual, he was striking the ball more effectively.

Stanislas Wawrinka poses with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup Stanislas Wawrinka poses with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup

Wawrinka, apparently unnerved by the situation, quickly lost his focus and began spraying the ball to all corners of the court when he should have been playing percentage tennis and pulling his opponent from side to side. Attempting outlandish winners, Wawrinka shanked several shots and kept missing the target. “I started to be really nervous because I started to realise that I could win a Grand Slam,” he admitted afterwards.

Nadal, remarkably, won the third set, and even broke back in the fourth after dropping his serve at 2-3. Nevertheless, Wawrinka finally got his head together and eventually closed out victory after two hours and 21 minutes.

“It’s tough when you are working for a moment like this for the whole year and a moment arrives when you are not able to play at your best,” Nadal said afterwards.

“I tried hard until the end to finish the match as well as I could for the crowd, for the opponent, for myself, but it was impossible to win this way. My opponent was too good.”

Nadal has missed two Australian Opens through injury and seen his chances dashed by injury at three more.

“It’s true that I have not been very lucky and this is a tournament that is painful for me,” he said. “It’s a tournament that I love so much, where the warm conditions are good for me and there is a good crowd. It’s a tournament where I have had some troubles physically, which is painful for me, but that’s part of life. That’s part of sport. It’s not the end of the world.”

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?