Stan Wawrinka, erstwhile Swiss No. 2, shocked Rafael Nadal and the tennis world by taking the trophy in Melbourne over the world No. 1: 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. In doing so, he became the rare player to win a Major outside of the Top 4 in what has otherwise been nearly decade of dominance by (mostly) Federer and Nadal, an ardent Djokovic, and a sprinkling of Murray. (Oh, yes, and one by Juan Martin del Potro.)
Wawrinka was ranked No. 8 going into the tournament, and will be No. 3 when the rankings come out on Monday. He’s spent a good deal of his career under the shadow of Roger Federer, but he has emerged into the sunshine today. He toppled the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, in the quarterfinals, and bested the top seed today, becoming the only man to beat Djokovic and Nadal in the same Slam.
He started the match with a great calm and focus, and took the first set handily, despite not having a great first serve percentage. Then he broke Nadal at love in the first game of the second. He held for a 2-0 lead, when, on his own service game, Nadal seemed to tweak his back. He held serve, but went off the court for a medical timeout. When he came back, his movement and serve were clearly compromised. Speculation rose as to whether the Spaniard might retire. Wawrinka won the set 6-2.
However, in the third set, Nadal loosened, while Wawrinka tightened. The Swiss had 19 unforced errors when the set was done, and had basically handed it to Nadal: 6-3.
The fourth set was on serve until Wawrinka broke in the sixth game, but Nadal broke straight back, raising the stakes, and the hopes that it might actually go the distance. But Wawrinka found his nerve, and broke again for 5-3, then served out the match.
Nadal had been gunning for a lot of history in this final, but it was not to be. Stan the Man, as he’s known, or the “Stanimal,” made his own bit of history today.
Photo credit: Marianne Bevis (Creative Commons License)