Wawrinka beats Nadal, wins Australian Open
Atlanta, Ga (CNN) — A grand slam finale that wasn't supposed to be dramatic turned out to be one of the most memorable in recent history.
Here Stanislas Wawrinka was, in his first major final at the Australian Open, facing Rafael Nadal -- who he had never even taken a set off in 12 previous matches.
Nadal looked sharp in disposing of Roger Federer in the semifinals and not many thought he wouldn't complete the deal against the 17-time grand slam winner's fellow Swiss, even if Wawrinka upset three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
But not for the first time in Melbourne, an injury to Nadal early in an encounter hampered the Spaniard and Wawrinka opened his grand slam account with a stunning 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 victory.
"Bad luck was against me today but you really deserved it so congratulations," Nadal, wiping away tears, told the crowd post match. "Sorry to finish this way. I tried very, very hard."
Federer complained about Nadal's grunting Friday and when the 13-time grand slam winner received a time violation warning from chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the first game of the second set, some at Rod Laver Arena applauded.
That was simply the start of the spectacle.
Nadal clutched his back and called for the trainer, going off court for treatment. When he returned, there were boos from some sections of the crowd -- a rare, if almost unheard of, occurrence.
In between, Wawrinka jawed with Ramos, demanding to know what the injury was -- Ramos declined to tell the 28-year-old but tournament referee Wayne McKewen later obliged.
A distraught Nadal had to wipe away tears -- because of the injury -- and with little on his serve, Wawrinka coasted to the second set.
Nadal must have flashed back to 2011 in Melbourne, when a leg injury sustained against David Ferrer in the quarterfinals ended his chances of achieving the "Rafa Slam" -- four grand slam titles in succession. He missed last year's tournament as he recovered from a knee injury.
Such was the state of Nadal that a first retirement in a men's grand slam final in 24 years appeared a distinct possibility.
But Wawrinka squandered break points in the opening game of the third and two more in the final game of the set. Nadal thereby maintained his streak of never losing a grand slam final in straight sets.
Fireworks to mark Australia Day erupted at about the same time, and soon chants of "Rafa, Rafa" filled the stadium. With Nadal, though, unable to generate pace on his serve, Wawrinka broke for 5-3 and closed the match out with a winning forehand.
Not in 21 years had a men's player ousted the top two seeds at a grand slam.
Nadal was thus deprived of a 14th major, which would have placed him joint second with Pete Sampras -- he was at Rod Laver Arena to present the trophies -- and three behind Federer on the men's all-time list.
Nadal's plight Sunday is sure to dominate the headlines but Wawrinka's performance shouldn't be forgotten.
With more oomph on his ground strokes than Federer and earning free points on serve, nerves weren't a factor in the first set.
Good fortune doesn't hurt at a grand slam, and Nadal's ailment, combined with Wawrinka's opponent retiring in the first round and his foe in the third round pulling out altogether, aided him.
But Wawrinka -- who took Djokovic to five sets in two majors last year -- has become consistent under Swedish coach Magnus Norman and will rise to a career high No. 3 in the world when the new rankings are released.
His achievement will surely be applauded. On Sunday, however, it was Nadal who still commanded much of the attention.
Just not for the reasons we all thought.