AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2014
How The Australian Open Final Was Won
by James Buddell|
Eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka captured his first Grand Slam championship title on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over top seed Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. It was his first victory over Nadal in 13 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.
Wawrinka will become Switzerland's No. 1 player ahead of Roger Federer, when the updated Emirates ATP Rankings are published on Monday.
World No. 1 Nadal had been bidding to become the first double career Grand Slam champion in the Open Era. Only Roy Emerson and Rod Laver have won each major on two or more occasions in tennis history.
Read set-by-set analysis of how Wawrinka beat Nadal in the Australian Open final.
Wawrinka proved to be nerveless in the opening exchanges of his first Grand Slam championship final. Driving through the ball and striking his groundstrokes with terrific pace, Wawrinka broke Nadal to 15 in the fourth game. By playing on the baseline, Wawrinka was pushing Nadal deeper behind the court.
Nadal, at 1-4, was rattled when he lost three straight points from a 30/0 lead. The set could well have turned at 5-3, when Wawrinka dropped to 0/40. But he battled back to deuce with three big serves. He clinched the 37-minute opener, winning his fifth straight point, with his third ace.
It marked the first set he had won against Nadal. "I was more surprised about how well I was playing," said Wawrinka. "I was expecting to be [a] little bit nervous, not to move so well, especially at the beginning like I did against [Novak] Djokovic [in the quarter-finals]. But tonight was just the perfect start.
"I feel [that] I played my best tennis during one set and one break. I was feeling really good on the court. I was moving well, feeling really aggressive, and I played my best set by far."
Full of confidence, Wawrinka broke Nadal to love in the first game of the second set. Midway through the third game, Nadal grabbed his lower back and called for a trainer at the change of ends.
The Spaniard left the court for five minutes, only to return to Rod Laver Arena in an emotional state. "The physio tried to relax my back a little bit," said Nadal, of his time off the court. "The last thing that I wanted to do was retire. I hate to do that, especially in a final."
Wawrinka did well to maintain his concentration as Nadal’s plight became evident.
Hitting his serve at half-pace, the sport’s greatest fighter proved unable to scramble down Wawrinka’s groundstrokes in longer rallies. But he kept battling as Wawrinka eventually closed out the set, which lasted 38 minutes. Nadal then received further treatment, on-court this time.
Wawrinka hit 16 winners, including eight aces, and converted two of his five break point opportunities in the second set. Nadal won eight of his 19 first service points.
"He got injured," said Wawrinka. "I saw that. He wasn't serving at all. He wasn't moving during one set. Then, it was a completely different match. I had to focus on myself, to try to find the way just to win it. I knew it was really, really difficult for him. I was unhappy for that because normally that's not the way I want to win the match."
Nadal regrouped and started to take his chances to ruffle Wawrinka’s feathers. The 2009 champion kept rallies short, moved better and as Wawrinka lost timing on his shots, errors started to flow.
Nadal won the first three games. At 5-3, in a tense service game, Nadal battled back from 15/40 and sealed his second set point opportunity after Wawrinka hit a return into the net.
Fireworks lit up the Melbourne skyline in celebration of Australia Day as both players walked to their chairs.
Wawrinka regained his concentration and started the set in a positive manner. Unable to convert two break point opportunities in the first game, the Swiss eventually clinched a 4-2 lead with a forehand winner, having broken Nadal to 15. Nadal immediately bounced back with a break to love.
But Wawrinka was not to be denied, realising his time was now. By hitting three straight groundstroke winners, he broke Nadal to 15 for a 5-3 lead and then coolly became the second Swiss man to win a Grand Slam singles title. He hit a forehand winner down the line to end the two-hour and 22-minute encounter.
"At the end I won in four sets," said Wawrinka. "I think I finish well the match. To get the win, it's just amazing for me."
Wawrinka lost just six of his service points in the fourth set, which lasted 33 minutes. Overall, he struck 19 aces to one for Nadal. He also hit 53 winners and committed 49 unforced errors (19 errors came in the third set).
Wawrinka has won all 11 matches he has played in 2014. He also won the Aircel Chennai Open in the first week of the 2014 ATP World Tour season.