Nadal vs. Wawrinka: Breaking Down 2014 Australian Open Final's Key Moments

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIJanuary 26, 2014

Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, right,  shakes hands with Rafael Nadal of Spain at the net after Wawrinka won the men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

The 2014 Australian Open final between Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka will be remembered as the upset that shook up the men's world tennis rankings.

With wins over Novak Djokovic and Nadal in the tournament, Wawrinka jumps from No. 8 in the world to No. 3—surpassing Roger Federer and becoming the highest-ranked Swiss player in the world for the first time in his career.

Getting to that point wasn't easy for Wawrinka. He battled emotions and a little bit of controversy to take down Nadal, and there were several match-defining moments that dictated the outcome of the tournament final.

The following three developments were the most crucial to Wawrinka's upset victory.


Nadal's Medical Timeout

Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

In the middle of the second set, Rafael Nadal signaled for a medical timeout. He left the court with his trainer to receive treatment for what—at the time—appeared to be an unknown issue. At least, that's what Wawrinka thought.

The Swiss was not happy with the medical timeout call. Umpire Carlos Ramos would not tell Wawrinka why Nadal left the court, and this left him visibly angry. What made Wawrinka even angrier was the fact that Nadal took more time than a medical timeout allows for and did not get penalized for it.

Such a major development early in the match could have been Wawrinka's downfall. He was already up a set on Nadal (and en route to taking the second set), and emotions easily could have gotten the best of him in this situation.

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Wawrinka had never appeared in a Grand Slam final prior to this, and the pressures of competing on the highest stage against the best competition had yet to really get to him.

Wawrinka was able to channel that anger into success, though. He raced through the service game to finish off the set. Nadal had no answer. This put Wawrinka up two sets to none—a lead that would be difficult to give away.


Wawrinka Falters in 3rd Set

Andrew Brownbill/Associated Press

Not so fast.

Wawrinka allowed his emotional second set to carry over to the third, but not in a good way. He was a mess in this set. He was inconsistent and not crisp with his serves or returns. He missed two break points early by sending one forehand wide and another forehand into the net.

Playing against a hobbled Nadal, this clearly wasn't the best strategy for success. Unfortunately, the poor set continued for Wawrinka.

Nadal showed his resilience in the third set. Despite receiving more medical attention prior to its beginning, Nadal refused to retire from the match and left everything he had on the court—possibly out of respect for Wawrinka.

Still, this third set was proof that Nadal is better than most of the world, even on a bad back that requires constant attention. This set easily could have been the end for Wawrinka.

Going up 2-0 is one thing, but dropping an emotional third set to the game's best player and giving him hope to make a comeback is not a safe play.

Wawrinka is lucky he was able to wrap it up in the fourth set.


Wawrinka Holds off the Comeback

Aaron Favila/Associated Press

Wawrinka raced out to a 40-0 lead in the fourth set, as he struck the ball perfectly. Nadal had no answer, and at this point in the match, didn't have the same lateral quickness he did earlier.

The back injury certainly had an influence on the match. Nadal wasn't as quick or as sharp as usual. That being said, that should not detract from Wawrinka's win. He was a set ahead and a break ahead prior to the injury, and he was able to stave off Nadal's comeback attempt.

For a player that had never been in a Grand Slam final before, Wawrinka handled the pressure pretty well. 

He was also humble in accepting his tournament trophy, telling the Associated Press' John Pye (via Yahoo Sports!): 

"Rafa, I am really sorry for you. I hope your back is going to be fine. You are an amazing champion and a really great guy. You did a great job to come back last year. I still don't know if I'm dreaming or not but we'll see tomorrow morning."

Wawrinka's victory will create a target on his head moving into future Grand Slams. Now at No. 3 in the world, Wawrinka has finally established himself as a top-tier competitor. It will be interesting to see how he fares in future competitions.