Stanislas Wawrinka: who is the man who beat Nadal?

Jan 27, 2014

What you need to know about the new Australian Open tennis champion and friend of Federer

SWISS player Stanislas Wawrinka became the first man from outside the 'Big Four' to win a Grand Slam tennis title since 2009 when he shocked Rafa Nadal in the final of the Australian Open on Sunday. 

The number eight seed also became the lowest-ranked player to win one of the majors since the unseeded Gaston Gaudio won in France ten years ago.

Wawrinka's four-set win over an injured Nadal ends a run of 16 Grand Slams won by Federer, Nadal, Djokovich or Murray since Argentine Juan Martin del Potro claimed the US Open title in 2009.

Here's what you need to know about the Swiss star who has shaken up the tennis hierarchy:

He has a diverse background. Wawrinka was born in Switzerland to a German father and Swiss mother, but his surname, pronounced 'Var-vrinka', is actually Polish. Despite that the German side of his family has Czech ancestry.

He left his wife and child to pursue his dream: Wawrinka married his girlfriend, Ilham Vuilloud, in late 2009 and their first child was born in early 2010. However, Wawrinka left his family in 2011 in order to dedicate himself to tennis. The couple were reunited within a year and getting back together appears to have been more beneficial than going it alone as Wawrinka's performances have improved dramatically since then.

He is a late bloomer. Wawrinka is 28, a veteran in tennis terms. He has been a pro since 2002 and his rise through the ranks has been slow and steady. He has gradually improved in recent seasons. His first Grand Slam quarter final came in 2010, and last year he got to the semi finals of a major tournament, the US Open, for the first time. But only six players have ever been older when they won their maiden Grand Slam, the most recent was Goran Ivanisevic who was 29 when he won Wimbledon in 2001.

He did it the hard way. By defeating both Nadal and Djokovich at Melbourne, Wawrinka became the first man to beat both the number one and two seeds on his way to a Grand Slam title since Sergi Bruguera did it at the 1993 French Open.

He may have taken inspiration from his tattoo. Wawrinka has a quote from Irish playwright Samuel Beckett tattooed on his left forearm. It reads: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better". Last year he explained its meaning. "This was my philosophy, my life philosophy, which is a tennis player's philosophy: If you're not called Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic, you're going to win but you have to learn from the losses."

He's better than Federer. Wawrinka, who started the tournament as the world number eight, has leap-frogged his friend Federer in the rankings as a result of his win in Australia. He is now the world number three, while Federer has slipped to eight. Wawrinka is also ranked higher than Britain's Andy Murray, who is now sixth.

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