Stanislas Wawrinka held firm in a match of high drama to defeat an injured Rafa Nadal 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 and win his maiden grand slam title at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The eighth seed roared to a two-set lead after top seed Nadal struggled with an apparent back injury sustained early in the second set, but the Swiss was left stunned as his opponent suddenly revived in the third at Rod Laver Arena.
Though restricted in his movement, Nadal fought back into the match with a barrage of clean hitting, completely throwing the Swiss off his game who surrendered the third set in a hail of unforced errors.
Wawrinka captured a break in the fourth set, surrendered it with a terrible service game, but recovered again to earn a chance to serve for the match.
He stayed cool when it counted, serving strongly and sealing the win with an imperious forehand rocketing down the line.
A relieved Wawrinka raised his hands in the air in celebration and after shaking hands with a gloomy Nadal, went to console the Spaniard at his chair.
“First, Rafa, I’m really sorry for you, I hope your back is okay, you are a great friend and a great champion,” Wawrinka said at the trophy ceremony.
“You did a remarkable comeback last year. For me it’s the best grand slam ever.
“Right now I still don’t know if I’m dreaming. I guess I’ll find out in the morning.”
The 2009 champion Nadal shed tears at the trophy ceremony, overcome by the emotion of a roller-coaster match.
“First thing I want to say, is thanks to Stan, we have a great relationship and you really deserve it today, so many congratulations and all the best.
“To all the crowd, it’s been an emotional two weeks sorry to finish this way, I tried very, very hard.
“Last year was a tough when I wasn’t able to play here, thanks for your support, see you next year.”
The triumph capped a remarkable fortnight for Wawrinka who became the first man in 21 years to beat the top two seeds at a grand slam since Sergi Bruguera pulled off the feat at the French Open in 1993.
Five days after ending second seed Novak Djokovic’s three-year reign at Melbourne Park, Wawrinka denied a distraught Nadal from becoming only the third man to have won all four majors at least twice.
Though Nadal’s injury clearly affected his game, Wawrinka had been well on top of their match early on and surged 3-1 clear in the first set after an early break.
Without a hint of nerves, Wawrinka blasted two aces before holding to lead 4-1, leaving the centre court crowd stunned.