Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka has held off an injured Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory Sunday in the Australian Open final.
The 28-year-old player had never taken a set off the world number one in 12 previous meetings, but attacked from the start at Melbourne Park against the 13-time major winner.
Nadal appeared to be on the verge of retiring in the second set, when he hurt his back and needed a medical time out, but recovered slowly after getting treatment to push it to four sets.
The Spaniard was a hot favorite to win the title at Melbourne Park and become the first man to win each of the four Grand Slam tournaments twice in the Open era - instead, his injury curse struck again in Australia.
"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 as he accepted his first major trophy.
"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."
Heartbreak to triumph
Warwinka lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open, in the longest Grand Slam match of the season. Djokovic went on to win the title, and beat Wawrinka again in five sets in the US Open semifinals.
But Wawrinka avenged those losses this time, beating three-time defending champion Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
After beating the top two ranked players to win the title, Wawrinka will move from number eight to number three in the rankings. He'll surpass 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer, who lost to Nadal in the semifinals, to become the highest-ranked Swiss player for the first time in his career.
Reactions back home
Swiss President Didier Burkhalter was quick to react after Wawrinka’s win. “Congratulations for your magnificent tournament on the other side of the world, all in strength and courage,” he said in a statement.
The government in canton Vaud where he lives also warmly congratulated the player.
Back home, his village has changed its name from Saint-Barthélemy to celebrate his win.
The tabloids reacted immediately. Le Matin posted this on Twitter:
while Zurich’s Blick was only slightly more low key
However the Tages Anzeiger newspaper’s website summed it up perhaps best with this comment about the player’s recipe for success:
“[Wawrinka] embodies Swiss virtues: diligence, humility and perseverance. […] And that's why his success is a strong signal at a time when it is difficult to see what our country stands for,” it wrote.
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