Stanislas Wawrinka's Australian Open win a popular one

By Russell FullerBBC tennis correspondent
Report: Wawrinka wins Australian Open

In the 35 Grand Slams that preceded this Australian Open, Juan Martin Del Potro was the only man able to prevent the name of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic being inscribed on the trophy.

So Stanislas Wawrinka finds himself in excellent company.

We will never know whether the new Swiss number one would have been able to reproduce his blistering first-set performance for up to five sets against a fully fit Rafael Nadal, but then again we don't know that he wouldn't.

The 28-year-old from the village of St Barthelemy, just outside Lausanne, had some breaks in Melbourne. He was also fortunate that Vasek Pospisil withdrew from a third-round match scheduled for the 40-degree heat of the first Friday, but nothing should detract from his triumph.

Wawrinka recovered from a break down in the fifth set of the quarter-final to end Novak Djokovic's 25-match unbeaten run at Melbourne Park, and his own personal torment of losing 14 matches in a row to the Serb.

He then showed a steadier nerve in two of the three tie-breaks that decided his semi-final with Tomas Berdych, and by the time he had moved into a two-sets-to-love lead over Nadal, had held serve 38 times in a row.

He offers explosive power from the baseline, and a fearsome forehand that doesn't get the praise it deserves because of the majesty of his single-handed backhand.

He says he never expected to win a Grand Slam, but coach Magnus Norman has helped instil great self-belief in the Swiss in the nine months they have been working together.

Norman peaked at number two in the world rankings, and coached fellow Swede Robin Soderling to the French Open final in both 2009 and 2010.

His advice to a man who had lost all 12 of his previous meetings with Nadal without winning a set was to forget about the result, and instead think about the way you want to play each point.

Wawrinka's triumph will be a very popular one, and not just in Switzerland, where the population voted him their personality of the year on the eve of his first-round match.

He finished ahead of the comedian Divertimento and the singer Bastian Baker, and will have his name engraved on a rock in his honour.

He will be a popular winner among the players. He is close to Federer, even if that doesn't extend to spending much time in each other's company away from the tour. He considers Nadal a "really good friend" and is a regular practice partner of Andy Murray's.

He likes to let his hair down from time to time, and is a genial member of the world's elite who could never be accused of taking himself too seriously. In the run-up to the final he was retweeting from the Twitter parody accounts of Nadal and Federer.

To quote @PseudoRafa: "Against Stan I'm gonna #trymybest. Or maybe not. I never lost a set with him anyway."

He greets new experiences with almost boyish, but endearing, enthusiasm.

Last year when he finally qualified for the World Tour Finals for the first time, he sent his followers a picture of himself making the journey to London on the Eurostar, and he also took great delight in being able to tweet a picture he had never witnessed before: an empty players' restaurant on the weekend of a Grand Slam final.

Wawrinka is the new world number three - a position he thoroughly deserves for his excellence over the past 12 months.

Staying there will be tough, but his new ranking will protect him from meeting the likes of Nadal and Djokovic until at least the semi-finals, and he should start to win some of the bigger ATP titles that have so far eluded him.

Adding a second Grand Slam title will be even tougher, as I don't expect the oligopoly in men's tennis to be broken up any time soon.

Nadal played fabulously for the most part in Melbourne for a man who had little time to prepare; Djokovic has reached the semi-finals at 15 of the previous 16 Grand Slams; Murray should be fighting fit come the summer; and Federer has shown that on quicker surfaces he can't be ruled out of the equation.

But Wawrinka's presence will be very keenly felt in the latter stages of a Grand Slam. Last year he became the player whom no-one dared underestimate.

This year, in the space of just two weeks on the banks of the River Yarra, he has become a champion: a man capable of overcoming both Djokovic and Nadal, along with the weight of history against him, and winning his first Grand Slam at the 36th attempt.


Join the conversation

These comments are now closed.


Top Stories