Eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka has taken his first Grand Slam title, winning the 2014 Australian Open in an upset over injury-troubled world number one Rafael Nadal. The victory was a long time coming for the Swiss star.
Top seed Nadal entered his 19th Grand Slam final appearing to be affected by a back injury, as Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka took a shock two-set lead in Sunday's Australian Open final, at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
Losing the first set 6-3 to eighth-seed Wawrinka, Nadal winced and clutched his back during the third game of the second set, requiring repeated treatment.
He went off the court for a medical timeout at 2-1 down, receiving further treatment on court at 4-1 down, and after losing the second set 6-2 with an ace from Wawrinka.
The Spaniard staved off his injury and dug deep in the third set, saving two break points before holding serve with a barrage of forehands, taking the set 6-3.
Wawrinka then captured a break in the fourth set, surrendered it, and then recovered to serve for the match, winning the final set 6-3 with an imperious forehand rocketing down the line. The final championship scores were 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
It was Wawrinka's first win over Nadal in 13 meetings, and the second in a series of dramatic career reversals after having knocked out Novak Djokovic in the quarter finals, following a loss of 14 consecutive matches to the Serb.
The 28-year-old, now the top Swiss after Nadal beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals, will stand third behind Nadal and Djokovic in Monday's ATP ranking.
"In one year, a lot has happened"
A relieved Wawrinka, who won the title on what was Australia's annual national holiday, paid tribute to his opponent at the trophy ceremony.
"I'm really sorry for Rafa, I hope your back will be fine. It's always a pleasure to play you.
"Last year I had a crazy match here [which he lost in five sets to Djokovic]. I lost it and I was crying a lot after it. In one year, a lot has happened," Wawrinka said.
"I don't know if I'm dreaming or not, I'll know tomorrow morning I guess. This is just an amazing grand slam to play," he added.
Nadal, the tournament's 2009 champion, shed tears at the ceremony.
"First thing I want to say is thanks to Stan, we have a great relationship and you really deserve it today, so many congratulations and all the best.
"To all the crowd, it's been an emotional two weeks, sorry to finish this way, I tried very, very hard," Nadal said.
Wawrinka defies the odds
Had Nadal won on Sunday, he would have equaled Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles and become the third man in history to win each of the four grand slam titles twice, after Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.
Wawrinka, now a winner of six career titles, but only one grand slam competition, won the Australian Open title on his 36th appearance at a grand slam, the second-longest wait on record.
jr/tj (Reuters, AFP)