How does this happen?! First time in the finals. 0-12 record against his opponent. Not even a set won in previous matches. And it’s Stanislas Wawrinka, who wins the title.
Of course, we’re not talking about just any title. It’s the Australian Open final against Rafael Nadal. One of the greatest players in the history of the game. Granted, Nadal had been experiencing some physical issues. Griggor Dimitrov came within a point of a two sets to one lead. So it could be argued that Nadal was fortunate to be there.
Even still, he had it all over Stan. Statistically, he had this guy beat in just about every department. But the will to win. The thing that Nadal has been known for, wasn’t with him. It was with Stan.
Stan’s A plan worked great for about two sets. He faced some tough moments with his nerves, but was able to finish the match in four.
The stars aligned perfectly for Wawrinka, during the Australian Open fortnight. He made it through to the quarter-finals with no sets lost. He was totally fresh. Even sporting a walk-over against Pospisil. Then he ran into Novak Djokovic. Big time trouble. But survived the encounter in a five set fight.
In the semi-finals, he faced Berdych. A very dangerous opponent with massive ground strokes. Stan took care of him in four. Setting up a showdown with Rafael Nadal. A player that he’d never beaten before. And even that wasn’t enough to deny him the trophy.
Congratulations Stan. You earned it!
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At 28 years old, Stan is having the breakthrough of his career. He admitted before the final, that he never expected to to be there.
Let’s take a look back at the match. Recapping on what it took for him to win his first grand slam tournament.
Stan comes out with the better energy by far. He looks focused and sharp.
Nadal is completely the opposite. He’s sluggish and frequently misfires with his forehand. Stan gets the early advantage and holds off any signs of nerves.
It’s 5-3 with Wawrinka serving for the set. The wheels come off and he drops three straight points. Love-40 opening for Nadal. Looks like he’ll be back on serve in a moment.
But then Nadal chokes. Stan misses three first serves and yet Nadal can’t get the ball in the court. He misses five straight returns and surrenders the first set to Wawrinka.
It’s 1-0 to Stan the man.
The second set, starts out with an epic rally. After twenty-one strokes, Stan smacks an inside out forehand winner. Which leaves Nadal looking a little more than concerned.
Over the course of a match, these are not the points you’d expect him to lose.
Stan plays a flawless game to break. Then holds easily for a 2-0 lead.
Midway through the next service game, Nadal dumps a forehand into the net. He bends over wincing, hands on his hips. It’s not clear what’s bothering him but it’s apparent that something is seriously wrong. He wins the game and immediately leaves the court with the trainer for a medical time-out.
An argument ensues between Stan and the chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Stan demands to know why his opponent has left the court and Ramos refuses to tell him. He informs Stan that he isn’t required to give him that information.
When Nadal finally returns to the court, he is met with boos from the crowd. The match resumes and Wawrinka, easily serves out to a 3-1 lead.
We see that the treatment hasn’t helped Nadal very much. He has great difficulty bending. Costing him power and speed on his serve. Stan breaks, holds, and then serves out the set 6-2.
At two sets to love down and a locked up back. The chances of a comeback seems impossible. Even for Nadal.
Early in the third set, Nadal starts to move better. He rediscovers the timing on his forehand.
Meanwhile, Stan is feeling the pressure. He’s now expected to win the match and it’s not sitting well with him. Panicking, he goes into self destruct mode. Giving Nadal, freebies here and there. Especially on the return of serve.
Nadal might not be moving well. But with his forehand firing and Stan botching most returns, it’s enough for him to take the set 6-3.
It’s 2-1 Wawrinka but the tables have turned. We just saw an injured Nadal, with severely limited movement, take the set. Could there still be a chance for him to win?
Stan continues to struggle with his nerves. He’s holding his own serve but can’t play a decent return game. Spraying errors and misfiring on returns. Nadal doesn’t have to do much more than get the ball in play.
But that all changes at 2-all. Stan gets his act together and plays a smart return game. Aiming for safe targets. Which forces the hobbled Nadal, to scurry around the court after them. Easy break.
Stan’s up 4-2 now but his confidence abandons him. He dumps serve to love and Nadal is back in the set.
Frustrated, Stan goes back to basics. Moving Nadal around the court, keeping the ball in play, and simply playing smart tennis. He breaks him again and bangs his fist into his temple. Indicating that he’s got his thinking cap on and is ready to serve out the match. He does so in textbook fashion. Giving him his first Australian Open title and victory over Nadal. Couldn’t come at a better time, eh?
Nadal is gracious during the post match interview. Refraining from tears despite losing a title which he wanted, so badly. Stan, just looks happy (and surprised) to be holding the winner’s trophy. He congratulates Rafael and his team on a successful run to the finals and with a smile, says that he’ll be returning home soon to his wife and daughter.
This will probably be the biggest moment of Stan’s career. He’s closing in on 30 and there’s really no way of knowing whether this is the pinnacle or if there might be another slam for him on the horizon.
Putting all that aside however, this is a pretty interesting turn of events.
Stan is the first player to have cracked through the big four since Juan Martin Del Potro.
I’m not sure if this a sign of things to come or just a fluke. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how Nadal fares at Roland Garros. It’s a title that he’s only lost once in his career. But Djokovic, has proven that he’s vulnerable on clay.
There’s only a few players capable of doing it. But with the right set of circumstances, we could see a new French Open champion.
I probably shouldn’t get too far carried away. Nadal is still my pick to win the French Open. And I sincerely hope that he does.
Undeniably, this match will change Stan’s legacy as a tennis player. He’s now a champion.
Before I end this article, I want to ask you a question. Do you think Stan will win another major or is this just a one time thing?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.