It's been a thrilling 2014 Australian Open so far, and the finale should bring it full circle as Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka compete for the crown of the year's first Grand Slam event.
Stars like Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer—among others—have fallen throughout the tournament, but Nadal looks poised to build off what was an incredible 2013.
Wawrinka has already recorded a personal best by making it to the final of a Grand Slam, something he has never done. But considering he's already beaten the likes of Djokovic and Tomas Berdych means that the Swiss native is plenty capable of knocking off Spanish icon Nadal.
Here's a look at everything you need to know regarding the Australian Open men's final.
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|
Road to the Final
One strolled through top competition in a simplistic manner to easily get to the final. The other clawed their way through difficult matchups and beat the odds.
It's not hard to figure out which is Nadal and which is Wawrinka.
Fresh off his first appearances in a Grand Slam final, Wawrinka is feeling plenty of momentum after knocking off Djokovic in a five-set quarterfinal thriller. The match-winning set for the Swiss player came at the score of 9-7, taking tons of battling to get over the hump as the Joker didn't look interested in letting up.
That set up Wawrinka with Berdych in the semis, which turned into a four-set match that included tiebreakers in each of the last three sets. Wawrinka battled through the seventh-seeded and favorite Berdych to continue his hot streak with the win.
Wawrinka will put that recent success up against Nadal, who only lost one set all tournament to get here and won the rest of his matches in straight sets.
But don't let that fool you. He's done it against top competition, most notably a straight-set waxing of 6-seed Roger Federer in the semifinals. Before that, he topped 22-seed Grigor Dimitrov and 16-seed Kei Nishikori easily.
As you would expect, Nadal looks like the sure favorite in what should be another Grand Slam to add to his trophy case. But Wawrinka has beaten the odds before, and looks to be in his best form ever.
If there's one thing we've learned from Wawrinka in this tournament, it's that he will battle to the end. Unfortunately for him, against Nadal he will be battling from behind most of the match.
Who will win?
The Spaniard is simply playing at an unstoppable pace right now. Not a single player in the world can keep up with him at the moment, whether it's Wawrinka or Djokovic or anyone else.
There's little reason to argue with the notion that Wawrinka is playing the best tennis of his career, and the public should expect plenty of him in the upcoming three Grand Slams in 2014. But right now, every indication points toward Nadal being the unquestionable best player in the world right now.
The Swiss budding star will live up to his reputation and fight, but Nadal simply has too much in his arsenal at the moment for the overmatched Wawrinka to keep up.
Prediction: Nadal wins, 6-3, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4