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Luck of the draw

Stanislas Wawrinka is as deserving a Grand Slam winner as any other, even his opponent.

Published: January 27, 2014 11:59:36 pm

Stanislas Wawrinka is as deserving a Grand Slam winner as any other, even his opponent.

The first question Stanislas Wawrinka, winner of the Australian Open and only the second male Grand Slam champion outside the “Big Four” in the last nine years, was asked after beating a struggling Rafael Nadal was this: “In a match where much will be made about Nadal’s injury, was it hard to hit your winners?” “I don’t care,” he said. “It’s not the way one wants to win a match. But again, it may be only once that I appear in final of a Grand Slam. So I take it.”

The big talking point after the final was if the win will feel like one for Wawrinka, considering that Nadal battled a sore back before he lost the title in four sets. More hostile sections on social networking sites claimed that Wawrinka’s name should be etched into the trophy with an asterisk above it. After all, they said, his first-round opponent retired, his fourth-round opponent gave him a walkover and his fellow finalist was ravaged by injuries. But Wawrinka rightly laughed away suggestions that he wasn’t a worthy winner. Clearly, he replied, the last man standing must be considered king.

Wawrinka knows all about bad hands. He was born 28 summers ago in Switzerland, four years after a certain Roger Federer. Through his junior career, he learned to live in a greater man’s shadow. When both turned pro, Federer found himself other worthy competitors, and hence allies, in the Nadals, Novak Djokovics and Andy Murrays of the world. Politely, Wawrinka let them dominate too. Forget winning, he hadn’t once taken a set off Nadal in their 12 career meetings. But some of that changed over the last fortnight. Not only did he take three against Nadal, injured or not, in the final to take the title, he also became the first champion in the new millennium to beat both the world number one (Nadal) and world number two (Djokovic, four-time champion) en route to the trophy. And that no asterisk can take away from him.

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