January 26, 2014 by Parveer Mann
Originally published on Back Row Sports
How often does one associate the words of Samuel Beckett with Tennis? For Stanislas Wawrinka, the Irish Poet’s words are never too far away both in mind and body:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
His tattoo is both a reflection of his journey but also the challenges he’s had to face in the last year alone. It is that journey and failure that makes his stunning Australian Open victory one of the most satisfying breakthroughs in recent history.
Building on last year
After long being overshadowed by countrymen Roger Federer (and who wouldn’t be), Stan took a huge step forward in 2013 and it all started in Melbourne. His marathon five setter against Novak Djokovic was a match of the year contender and really showed how much Wawrinka had improved in recent years. He had quietly transformed into a player who could endure grueling rallies, add that to his already splendid backhand and he had developed all the key weapons to contend.
This showed in his deep runs in Madrid, New York and at the World Tour finals. So, it was not surprising to see him make a run into the second week this year in Melbourne but it would be surprising to see how much he had learned from his close calls last year.
First, he exercised demons by overcoming Djokovic after 14 straight defeats and ultimately ending Novak’s consecutive wins streak in Australia. It was such an emotional breakthrough that it had many on-site and online singing Stan’s praises and how much he deserved this opportunity. He followed that up with a tight win over Tomas Berdych before facing his longest odds yet in a finals showdown against Rafael Nadal.
Stan delivers against ailing Nadal
Even before the surreal moments that followed Nadal’s painful back spasms, Stan had proved that he belonged in his first Grand Slam final. He was easily the aggressor in the first set, imposing his will on Nadal and most importantly, keeping points short. Now, we know that Nadal’s back was giving him trouble as early as warm-ups but it still takes a certain degree of execution to deliver under pressure in a Grand Slam final.
The biggest moment in my opinion was his ability to shake off all those unforced errors in the third set and find a way to close it out in the fourth set. It would have been a scary proposition to have to go five sets even if Nadal was not at his best.
What does it all mean?
Despite the circumstances surrounding Nadal’s performance after the first set, Stan’s win is the first big shakeup in men’s tennis since Del Potro’s 2009 US Open. It vaults Wawrinka to number three in the world (behind Nadal and Djokovic) and clearly makes him the Swiss number one. Beyond that, it is anybody’s guess.
For Nadal, it will be a missed opportunity to inch closer to Federer’s Grand Slam mark and the chance to win each Slam at least twice. Hopefully, the ailing back is a momentary setback and that he can resume his charge towards history later this year.
For Stan, his win certainly gives hope to some of the second tier players on the ATP tour that they can eventually crack through against the Big 4. I think it also positions Stan as a real threat at Roland Garros because he has always been a good clay court player and might only be behind Nadal and Djokovic in that respect. But, even he was instantly aware that he is not in a position to challenge for world number one and at nearly 29, his future chances may be few.
However long it lasts, I think we can celebrate that Stan’s time finally came and it was rightfully deserved on any level.