The Australian Open left fans in shock, after the No. 1 tennis player in the world, Rafael Nadal — the heavy favorite — lost to Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.
But it was not to be, despite the almost sure-in victory at Sunday’s final the match still had to be played and Stanislas Wawrinka (get used to that name) took advantage of a clearly injured Rafael Nadal.
The Spanish great was going for his 14th Grand Slam title — to tie American Pete Sampras, who was present for the occasion — however, Wawrinka had other ideas.
A clearly injured Rafael Nadal did the best he could, but was not able to stop the determined Wawrinka.
In a Australian Open full of upsets, this was the biggest one of them all.
PHOTO via Reuters: Stanislas Wawrinka gets his 1st Grand Slam title as he beats Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open pic.twitter.com/vcyuVaHfwl
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Wawrinka came into Sunday’s Australian Open final as the definite underdog, many experts only assigned him a slim chance of taking a set from the almost unstoppable Nadal.
The Swiss had not beaten Nadal in a dozen matches, and had a 14-match losing streak against No. 2 three-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic.
Not many men in tennis today have had a chance when trying to stop the rule of the “Big Four”: Federer, Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic.
“It’s not easy because tennis life, when you lose, it’s tough to get through and to take a positive from a loss, from failing from a tournament,” he said. “So that’s how I see, in general, my career. I always go back to practice to try to improve myself and to give me all the chance to beat the best player in the world.”
After beating Djokovic in the Australian Open quaterfinals, Wawrinka becomes the first man in 21 years to eliminate two top-seeded players on his way to win a major Grand Slam. The new champion moves from No. 8 to No. 3 in the world, ahead of his fellow countryman Roger Federer.
Rafael Nadal was clearly devastated and fought tears in an emotional post-game interview, in which he apologized to fans for losing. Fans chanted “no.”
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“I didn’t call so many (people), but my wife, my daughter, my sister, and Roger called me,” said Wawrinka at a news conference more than two hours later. “So, yeah, was nice for me. I know that he’s really, really happy for me.”
The Australian Open has meant bad luck for Rafael Nadal, who won in 2009, but lost in 2012. He lost in 2010 and 2011 due to injuries and was forced to skip the tournament in 2013 because of a knee injury and illness.
“It has been a very emotional two weeks — I’m sorry to finish this way,” he told the crowd, while commending Wawrinka’s play. “I tried very, very hard — this year was one of the more emotional tournaments in my career. Last thing that I wanted to do was retire. I hate to do that, especially in a final.”
For his part, Wawrinka also praised Nadal and wished him well with his injury:
“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,” Wawrinka said after he accepted his first major award. “Last year I had a crazy match. I lost it. I was crying a lot after the match. But in one year a lot happened — I still don’t know if I’m dreaming or not, but we’ll see tomorrow morning.”
Whether Wawrinka’s Australian Open is just luck due to Rafael Nadal’s injury, only time will tell, but when asked what he will do to celebrate his incredible feat, the Swiss said, “There’s a big chance I will get drunk tonight, but we’ll see.”