It’s been an interesting journey for both men to reach this point, and they are unlikely to let off the gas now that this prestigious Grand Slam is within reach.
Each competitor fought past an interesting and unexpected slew of opponents to reach the finals of the Aussie Open—an event rife with shocking results from the early rounds all the way up until the semifinals.
Could there be another upset in store for us in the men’s title match? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this marquee showdown in Melbourne.
Date: Sunday, January 26, 2014
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. (local time), 3:30 a.m. ET
Where: Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|Sun, Jan. 26||Pre-Final Entertainment||7 p.m. local time, 3 a.m. ET||ESPN|
|Sun, Jan. 26||Men’s Singles Final||7:30 p.m. local time, 3:30 a.m. ET||ESPN|
How They Got Here
Almost everyone expected that second-seeded Novak Djokovic would be facing Nadal in the finals, but Wawrinka had other plans. He dispatched Nole in the quarterfinals, outlasting the Happy Slam’s three-time defending champion in a five-set marathon matchup.
David Ferrer was the next likely candidate to emerge from that portion of the bracket, but the third-seeded Spaniard wasn’t able to navigate past Tomas Berdych—the man Wawrinka eliminated in the semifinals—in the upset-laden quarterfinals.
While the Swiss challenger may not be the most popular name in tennis, it would be hard to argue against his worthiness to be in this position. Wawrinka has scraped and clawed his way to his first Grand Slam finals appearance, and he appears to be making the most of the moment.
World No. 1 and top seed Nadal will be doing his best to halt his 28-year-old opponent’s momentum. The “King of Clay” has a chance to add a 14th major championship to his resume and a third victory at Melbourne. Nadal also has an opportunity to become the only man to win all four majors at least two times each in the Open era.
He hasn’t been in this position for quite some time, as his last Grand Slam earned Down Under came all the way back in 2009—when the Spaniard eked past Roger Federer in an epic, five-set title tilt for the ages.
Speaking of Fed, the 27-year-old Nadal was able to edge his longtime rival yet again on Friday in the semis. The straight-sets win was Rafa’s 23rd victory in 33 tries against the legendary star—an incredible feat.
Let’s take a look at the score of that matchup and more in this recap of each finalist’s journey to the championship.
|Rafael Nadal (1)||Stanislas Wawrinka (8)|
|1st Round||Def. B. Tomic; 6-4, Retired||Def. A. Golubev; 6-4, 4-1, Retired|
|2nd Round||Def. T. Kokkinakis; 6-2, 6-4, 6-2||Def. A. Falla; 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4|
|3rd Round||Def. G. Monfils (25); 6-1, 6-2, 6-3||Def. Vasek Pospisil (28); Walkover|
|4th Round||Def. K. Nishikori (16); 7-6 (7-3), 7-5, 6-5||Def. T. Robredo (17); 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5|
|Quarterfinal||Def. G. Dimitrov (22); 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (9-7), 6-2||Def. N. Djokovic (1); 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7|
|Semifinal||Def. R. Federer (6); 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-3||Def. T. Berdych (7); 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4)|
This will be the 13th matchup between Nadal and Wawrinka during their long careers. Unfortunately for the eighth-seeded Swiss, it hasn't exactly been an even rivalry.
Rafa has won every single set played between these two—a 26-set streak that began back in their first meeting in the third round of the Aussie Open back in 2007 and runs all the way through their most recent scuffle in the finals of the Barclays ATP World Tour.
However, Wawrinka is playing arguably the best tennis of his career at this juncture.
It’s worth noting that the Swiss veteran was riding a 14-game losing streak against Djokovic before finally beating the Serbian superstar this past Tuesday. He had not won against Djoker since 2006, back when both were still learning the ropes.
Wawrinka has also proved himself capable of winning grueling matches that go the distance. He’s only advanced in straight sets against Tommy Robredo, although he did get a walkover against Vasek Pospisil and had Andrey Golubev retire during their first-round contest. Regardless, Wawrinka’s last two matches against Berdych and Nole showed that he’s talented and durable enough to hang with anyone.
He admitted as much after advancing to the finals, per the Associated Press (via ESPN): "I take the confidence from my level in general. I know that I'm playing my best tennis."
Who will win?
Wawrinka did sound a tad shocked that he finally broke through and made a Grand Slam championship, telling the AP: "I don't know what to say. I'm speechless. I didn't expect to make a final in a Grand Slam -- tonight it's happening."
Unfortunately, it seems that will be all he will celebrate. Nadal is simply too good and too focused to fall to a lesser opponent. While Wawrinka’s body of work is more than impressive, he’s not ready to handle Rafa.
The Spaniard just decimated Federer and will make short work of Wawrinka in a final that was always his to win. Don’t be surprised if this one is over in a hurry.
Prediction: Nadal wins; 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.