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It’s fair to say that if you were to pick a winner for the Men’s Singles title at the Australian Open this year before the tournament had begun, the name of Stanislas Wawrinka would not have been many people’s choice.
Wawrinka, seeded eight, produced a sensational performance in the second week of the tournament to beat the three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in five sets in the quarter finals, the seventh seed Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals and then the injury-hit world number one Rafael Nadal in the final on Sunday to win his maiden Grand Slam title.
Nadal, bidding for a second Australian Open title and to become only the third man to win every Grand Slam at least twice, was visibly struggling with a back problem midway through the second set and it looked as though a retirement was imminent, but the Spaniard battled on and, having taken the third set, it looked like a comeback may well be on.
However, Wawrinka regained his concentration in the fourth set to clinch a first Grand Slam title in his first final and, despite Nadal’s injuries, Wawrinka fully deserved the victory, outplaying Nadal for the first set and a half before the injury occurred. He also showed mental toughness to win the fourth set, just as it looked like Nadal was beginning to move more freely. The win moves Wawrinka up to third in the world rankings and in doing so means he becomes the new Swiss number one which, in an era dominated by 17 times Major winner Roger Federer, is no mean feat.
As for Federer himself, he showed signs that he was beginning to get back to his best, most notably in the dismantling of Jo Wilfried Tsonga, who beat him at last year’s French Open, and the four set win over Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the quarter-finals. He moved excellently against Murray and, no doubt under the influence of new coach Stefan Edberg and using a slightly bigger racquet, he was beginning to approach the net more often and dominate points. It was a great sign for tennis to see Federer looking back to his best. Who knows, an 18th Grand Slam title may not be out of the question just yet.
Murray continued his recovery from back surgery with a solid tournament, with many people suggesting that a quarter-final spot would represent a success for the Brit on his return to competitive action. It was his first competitive outing since the Davis Cup tie in September and, although he was second best for most of the match against Federer, he will be encouraged with his overall performance and also satisfied with how well the back held up throughout the tournament. It seems as though by the time he comes to defend to Wimbledon title in June, he should be back to full fitness.
Overall though, this tournament belonged to Wawrinka, and there is no doubt that he will be a contender for future Grand Slams. He is the only man thus far to have beaten both Djokovic and Nadal in a Major and, watching his performances against these two in particular; there is a huge possibility that he could become a multiple Grand Slam champion.
This Australian Open has possibly set up the most exciting year in men’s tennis for a while, with the obvious trio of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, as well as a resurgent Federer, the 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, world number five David Ferrer and Berdych all very much in the hunt for Grand Slam success.
It could prove to be a cracking 2014.
Image courtesy of telegraph.co.uk