Rafael Nadal vs. Stanislas Wawrinka: Keys for Both Men in Australian Open Final

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IJanuary 25, 2014

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland during their semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Novak Djokovic, check. Serena Williams, check. Victoria Azarenka, check. Maria Sharapova, check.

The Australian Open is commonly referred to as the "Happy Slam." But this season it could easily have been renamed the "Upset Slam" after multiple favorites were knocked off on both the men's and women's side of the bracket.

But after a tournament full of upsets, could one final shocker be in the cards when No. 8 seed Stanislas Wawrinka takes on No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal in Melbourne?

In their 12 head-to-head matches, Nadal is 12-0 against Wawrinka. In those matches, the Swiss player has also never taken a set against the Spaniard. Needless to say, Nadal has been dominant against Wawrinka thus far.

But before the two players take the court in Melbourne, here are the keys for both with the Australian Open title on the line.


Match Info

Where: Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

When: Sunday, Jan. 26, at 3 a.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: Watch ESPN


Factors for Wawrinka

The task is clearly not an easy one for Wawrinka, who has never sniffed a victory over Nadal in his career, but there are a few factors that should give the Swiss player hope.

For starters, Nadal isn't at full strength coming into the final. A blister on his hand has been a large storyline thus far, but it hasn't been a huge factor with Nadal dropping just one set throughout the tournament.

Though it hasn't hindered him from pulling out wins, ESPN Stats and Info points out that his first serve was down from earlier in the tournament against Roger Federer in the semifinals:

Aside from hoping that Nadal will be slowed by the blister—which is not exactly a winning formula—Wawrinka will need to dominate the match with his serve. 

After wearing down Djokovic in the men's quarterfinals thanks to several long point wins and great serves, Wawrinka did the same against Tomas Berdych and found success in both matches to get to the final.

If Wawrinka can pull out some of those same demoralizing points, winning quick points off serves and breaking serve against Nadal could then become easier. After watching Wawrinka in both previous matches, Nadal knows how explosive he can be, according to the Australian Open account:

Forcing several long points and getting on top with his serve could pay huge dividends for Wawrinka. But going against a player as spectacular as Nadal will be no easy task.


Factors for Nadal

Putting it simply, Nadal has dominated the top Swiss players in his career.

With a 35-10 combined record against both Federer and Wawrinka, it's clear that he enjoys playing Swiss players and has made a career of ousting them on a regular basis. And after cruising over Federer, he faces a much less experienced Wawrinka in the men's final.

Despite his success against Wawrinka in the past, Nadal said he is going into the match against Wawrinka at the top of his game, according to the Australian Open Twitter account:

What needs to be working for Nadal coming in is his serve and his consistent return game. Going against a player like Wawrinka who has an overpowering serve, Nadal will simply need to force the Swiss player to play long points and move him around the court.

One distinct advantage that Nadal has over Wawrinka is clearly his experience on the biggest stage. With 18 Grand Slam finals appearances, Nadal ranks behind only Federer (24) and Ivan Lendl (19), according to The Grand Slam History Reference Book.

Another win over Wawrinka would also make him the youngest player to claim 14 Grand Slam titles, according to the Australian Open Twitter account:

If Nadal can use both his experience and cool demeanor against Wawrinka along with his overpowering approach on the court, he will continue to cement his legacy as one of the greatest tennis players in history. It will certainly be one to watch between the emerging star and the already established legend.