LATE bloomer Stanislas Wawrinka admitted he was in dreamland yesterday after the Swiss eighth seed upset world No1 Rafael Nadal to claim his first tennis grand slam title at the age of 28.
Wawrinka had never even taken a set off Nadal, 27, in 12 previous meetings but this time dropped just one as he beat the injury-hit Spaniard to the Australian Open 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
“I still think I’m dreaming,” he said. “It’s a strange feeling. I always try to watch the finals of grand slams because that’s where the best players are playing. Before today, it wasn’t a dream. I never expected to play a final, to win a grand slam. And right now I just did it.”
Wawrinka’s victory saw him become the first man to defeat the top two seeds at a grand slam since 1993, having also beaten Novak Djokovic.
He is also the first man from outside the big four – Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray – to win one of the sport’s major titles since 2009.
Nadal – winner of 13 grand slams and appearing in his 17th final, to Wawrinka’s first – injured his back in the warm-up but played down the effect of the physical setback on his shock defeat.
“That’s part of life,” he said. “The last thing I wanted to do was retire, especially in a final. It’s not the moment to talk about that; it’s the moment to congratulate Stan. He’s playing unbelievable. He really deserved to win that title.”
Wawrinka showed few nerves as he claimed the opening set, though did lose composure when Nadal twice required treatment during the second. The medical attention appeared to work as the Majorcan rallied in the third, but could not hold off the man poised to climb to a career high ranking of No3.
■ Wawrinka is set to overtake Andy Murray and reach a career-high ranking of three, but was 18th as recently as March 2013
■ The Swiss is the first man to beat both of the top two seeds in a grand slam since Spaniard Sergi Bruguera at the 1993 French Open
■ Wawrinka is the first player other than Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to win a men’s grand slam title since Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open