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Wawrinka Overcomes Decade of Federer to Upset Nadal in Australia

By Rob Gloster
January 26, 2014 10:37 AM EST 153 Comments
Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka poses with the trophy after his victory against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's singles final on day 14 of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2014.
Photographer: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images
Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka poses with the trophy after his victory against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's singles final on day 14 of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2014.

Stanislas Wawrinka didn’t just have to beat top-seeded Rafael Nadal in yesterday’s Australian Open final. He had to get out of the shadow of fellow Swiss player Roger Federer, the record 17-time men’s champion.

Wawrinka -- who capped an unlikely run to his first major tennis title with a four-set upset defeat of Nadal -- will rise to No. 3 in the world in ATP World rankings released today. He’s the first Swiss man since 2001 to be ranked higher than 32-year-old Federer, who’ll be eighth.

“I didn’t call many people, but my wife, my daughter, my sister, and Roger called me,” he told reporters. “It was nice. I know that he’s really, really happy for me. He always wanted the best for me.”

Wawrinka, the eighth seed, defeated Nadal 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to deny the Spaniard a 14th major crown. Nadal, who had beat Federer in the semifinals, was hampered by back pain yesterday, seeking treatment several times during the match.

The 28-year-old Wawrinka, who beat defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the quarterfinals, is the first man to overcome the top two seeds at a Grand Slam since Sergi Bruguera at the 1993 French Open.

Wawrinka became just the second man since 2005 outside the group of Nadal, Federer, Britain’s Andy Murray and Djokovic to win a Grand Slam singles title. Last year Wawrinka was defeated by the Serbian in a five-hour fourth-round match after he was up 5-2 and serving for a two-set lead.

“It’s quite crazy what’s happening right now,” Wawrinka told reporters after accepting the trophy from Pete Sampras. “I never expect to win a Grand Slam. I never dreamt about that because for me, I was not good enough to beat those guys.”

Treatment

Wawrinka started the tournament as a 66-1 bet at U.K. bookmaker William Hill Plc, meaning a successful $1 wager would return $66 plus the original stake.

Nadal, down a set and a service break, left the court for three minutes of treatment on his back before Wawrinka started serving with a 2-1 lead in the second. Nadal, 27, said his back started to trouble him in the warmup for yesterday’s match.

Wawrinka started strongly, and won the first two sets with aces, the second right down the middle. Nadal took the momentum in the third set with an early break. In the middle of the final set, they traded breaks before Wawrinka got another to go up 5-3 and to serve for the match. He won with a forehand.

“I tried hard until the end, trying to finish the match as good as I can for the crowd, for the opponent, for me,” Nadal told reporters. “So that’s what I did: tried everything until the last moment, but was impossible to win this way. My opponent is too good.”

Unbeaten Run

Nadal, 27, who had never lost a set in his 12 previous matches against Wawrinka, was trying to become the third man in tennis history -- along with Australians Roy Emerson and Rod Laver -- to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice. No man had done it since the sport went professional in 1968.

The Australian, French and U.S. opens, along with Wimbledon, make up the sport’s Grand Slam.

Nadal’s 14th major title would have tied him with retired American Sampras for second place on the men’s singles list, trailing only Federer’s 17. By reaching his 19th Grand Slam final, Nadal joined Ivan Lendl in second place on the career list -- behind only Federer’s 24. Nadal missed last year’s event because of an injury.

“He was playing amazing,” Nadal said about Wawrinka. “It is very tough to stop him when he’s playing that way. He’s playing with amazing confidence, hitting every ball very, very hard, moving himself great.”

Wawrinka has six career titles compared to Nadal’s 61. He will reach a career high ranking today, behind Nadal and Djokovic.

‘Knocking on Door’

“He’s been knocking on the door for a couple years now,” Sampras told reporters before the semifinals when asked about Wawrinka. “He’s been in this situation a few times. He’s stepping through that door.”

Wawrinka joined 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina as the only players outside Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray to win a Grand Slam title since Russia’s Marat Safin won the 2005 Australian Open.

Wawrinka reached his first Grand Slam final by upsetting three-time defending champion Djokovic of Serbia -- the second seed this year -- in the quarterfinals, and beating No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the semifinals in Melbourne.

The last time a player beat the top two seeds was in 1993, when Bruguera beat Sampras in the quarterfinal and No. 2 Jim Courier in the final at Roland Garros.

‘A Bull’

“He’s always been like a bull, a guy who is extremely strong, and he’s always had a great backhand,” seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe said in an interview before the final. “He’s learned from his mistakes and his past history, and that’s hard to do when you get into your late 20s.”

The final pitted the top seed against the eighth seed for the first time in a men’s Grand Slam final since tennis went professional.

Wawrinka’s championship prize of A$2.65 million ($2.32 million) brings his career earnings to more than $11 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Gloster in San Francisco at rgloster@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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