Melbourne: Stanislas Wawrinka won his maiden Grand Slam crown, overcoming an injury-afflicted Rafael Nadal to win a dramatic Australian Open men’s singles final in four sets at the Rod Laver Arena here Sunday.
The Swiss won 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in a match that will be remembered for a confusing and sometimes bizarre final three sets, with Nadal clearly hampered by a left lower back injury and seemingly on the verge of retirement in the second set.
"It was a little bit worse in the first set. End of the first set, I start to feel worse," Nadal said about his injury.
"Then at the beginning of the second was the key moment that I felt, during a serve in a bad movement, it's very stiff, very bad."
"But this is not the moment to talk about that, it's the moment to congratulate Stan. He's playing unbelievable and really deserve to win that title," Nadal added.
After the eighth-seeded Wawrinka had won the first set, Nadal pulled up short in the third game of the second set, clutching at his lower left back. The Spaniard left the court for treatment and could barely serve when he returned, Wawrinka racing through the second set in just 38 minutes, the top seed’s face regularly contorted in pain.
Wawrinka appeared to lose focus early in the third set as Nadal lifted his level, breaking the Swiss in the second game and gradually increasing the velocity of his first serve from just 120km/h.
Wawrinka had chances to break Nadal in the ninth game, but netted a forehand to gift the top seed the third set, his 15th unforced error of the set.
With Nadal lifting his level, Wawrinka matched the Spaniard’s increasing intensity, his serve on song. Nadal’s resolve finally broke in the sixth game when Wawrinka nailed a clean forehand winner to take the decisive break, and while he immediately handed the break back with an error-strewn service game immediately after, the Swiss broke Nadal to love to give himself a chance to serve for the match.
Wawrinka then produced two unreturnable first serves for 30-0, and sealed the biggest win of his career with a forehand winner in two hours and 21 minutes.
"It's really not the way you want to win a tennis match, but in a Grand Slam final I'll take it," said Wawrinka.
"Rafa, I'm really sorry for you, I hope your back is going to be fine, you're a really great guy, good friend and really amazing champion," said an emotional Wawrinka in his victory speech.
"For me it's the best Grand Slam ever. I'm enjoying very much to play here," the Swiss said. "But in one year a lot happened. I still don't know if I'm dreaming or not but we'll see tomorrow morning."
The victory was Wawrinka’s first over Nadal in 13 career meetings -- the 28-year-old had not won a single set against the Spaniard before Sunday night’s final.
The win will elevate Wawrinka to world No.3 when the rankings are released Monday; with Roger Federer dropping to No.8 after falling to Nadal in the semi-finals.
Wawrinka will become the first Swiss No.1 other than Federer in 13 years. Wawrinka’s maiden Grand Slam success comes in his 36th major; only Goran Ivanisevic (37) has taken longer to win a first major crown.