Rafael Nadal grimaces during trophy ceremony at 2014 Australian Open.
Stanislas Wawrinka won the Australian Open, his first Grand Slam title. Hopefully he's somewhere throwing a party. Because yesterday he had to endure the party poopers.
What was supposed to be Wawrinka's night in the spotlight was nearly overshadowed by Rafael Nadal's back injury. Australian Open tournament officials and ESPN focused so much attention on Nadal's injury that the trophy ceremony was more like a wake for Rafa instead of an honor for Stan.
It's a shame, too. Wawrinka earned that win. He played his way through Novak Djokovic, the three-time defending champion, and Nadal.
After winning match point, Wawrinka was slow to throw his hands up in victory. It was the greatest moment in his career, and yet he appeared too empathetic to celebrate. He told Tennis.com, “This wasn’t the way I wanted to win a tennis match...But it’s a Grand Slam, so you have to take it.”
Down a set and 0-3 in the second, Nadal took a medical timeout to address an issue with his back. He winced and grimaced. He appeared to be in considerable pain. When he returned, the crowd booed him.
Fans can speculate and draw their own conclusions. Nadal, however, broke no rules. He used the medical attention allotted to all players.
The problem was post-match. Cameras were fixated on Nadal, even as Wawrinka gave his speech. The tournament organizers spent more time talking about what a great champion Nadal has been than they did of Wawrinka. The headlines from The Washington Post to Sports Illustrated mention Nadal's injury. The ESPN.com match story highlights a quote from Nadal about his injury instead of Wawrinka's take on winning his first title.
What Nadal has accomplished deserves recognition, even admiration. But this was Wawrinka's time. He deserved more attention and adulation.
Wawrinka dictated the tempo of most of the match. The outcome of most games, even in the third set, rested on Wawrinka's racquet. He dominated Nadal in the first set and was clearly in control in the second. The medical timeout and Nadal's subsequent change of pace distracted Wawrinka. He lost focus and began spraying errors. Perhaps if Nadal had not taken the timeout, the match would have ended sooner.
In his post-match interview, via the Australian Open's website, Wawrinka told reporters that he still hadn't processed the magnitude of his win. "I still think that I'm dreaming. It's strange feeling, you know. I saw so many final. I always try to watch the final of Grand Slam because that's where the best player are playing."
Yes, Stan, that's where the best players play. You are among the best. Go celebrate. You deserve it.