It has been a surreal couple of weeks for Stanislas Wawrinka. The 28-year-old defied the odds at the Australian Open, as he defeated both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to win his maiden Grand Slam title. having never even won a Masters 1000 title in his professional career, this was certainly a remarkable achievement.
While the result may have been one of the most inspiring in recent memory, the match itself was a turbulent affair. The top seeded Nadal suffered a back injury as he was warming up for the final – one that led to his physical collapse in the second set. Wawrinka played a fantastic opening set, with minimal errors to lead 6-3 heading into the second frame. It was at that point that the Spaniard lost the ability to serve comfortably and called for a medical timeout to examine his back.
Nadal would later recover to force a fourth set against the Swiss, but would drop his serve late in the set and ultimately surrender his chance at winning his second Australian Open title.
The final may have lacked in quality but it was one that will be engrained in Wawrinka’s memory for the remainder of his life.
“To be honest, I don’t realize. I still think that I’m dreaming.” Wawrinka said following the match.”It’s strange feeling, you know. I saw so many final. I always try to watch the final of Grand Slam because that’s where the best player are playing.”
“Before today for me wasn’t a dream. I never expect to play a final. I never expect to win a Grand Slam. And right now I just did it. And especially the way I was playing all the tournament, it’s for me a big surprise to play that well. To beat Rafa today, even if he was injury, I think I play my best first set during the match; I was ready to play four hours or five to beat Novak in the quarter, to beat Berdych in semis. That shows me I’m doing the right thing since many years. That if you practice well, if you work hard, you will always have a chance to be in a great position to play your best tennis.”
Wawrinka will also usurp the Swiss No. 1 ranking from Roger Federer, who has held the title since 2001, as he debuts in the top 3 for the first time in his 12 years on the tour. He is also the first player outside the Top 4 to win the Australian Open since World No. 18 Thomas Johansson in 2002 and the first player to win his maiden Grand Slam title by defeating a World No. 1 since Juan Martin del Potro upset Federer in the 2009 US Open final.
While the new ranking was unexpected, Wawrinka’s biggest surprise was actually achieving his dream of winning a Grand Slam title.
“To win a slam, to be No. 3, both for me is a big surprise. But I think more to win a slam. Because in the ranking you can be No. 3 without winning a slam. But now it’s both happening, so it’s a big surprise.”
Having finally stepped outside of Federer’s elongated shadow, Wawrinka believes it was finally his turn to win a major title. He also considers himself deserving of the title, having defeated Djokovic before arriving at the world No. 1.
“It’s amazing feeling. I saw Roger winning so many Grand Slam in the past, so now it’s my turn to win one. If you look the 10 past year, except del Potro, it’s only the top four guys who was winning all the Grand Slams. So, yeah, I will need time to realize what I did in these two weeks. Because at the end, even if Rafa was injury, I think I deserve that Grand Slam because I won against Djokovic, No. 2; I won against Rafa.
I did amazing two weeks, and I was playing my best tennis ever.” he added.