January 21, 2014
Stanislas Wawrinka produced one of the great Grand Slam shocks to end the extraordinary winning run of Novak Djokovic. The gutsy Swiss won another five-set epic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7. In doing so, he ended Novak’s 28-match winning run, a separate 25-match winning streak at Melbourne, and a 14-match sequence of victories over Wawrinka himself.
Stan The Man had the Aussie crowd in stitches when he told them: ‘I tried everything, I’m really, really, really, really, really, really happy! I’m also tired, for sure. I’m going into an ice bath for a long, long time!’ Djokovic, who had won the Australian Open on the last three occasions, looked strangely out of sorts. His new coach Boris Becker seems to have brought little to the table when it matters.
Wawrinka has lost in five sets twice before to Djokovic – but now the underdog has earned his place among the elite of the men’s game. Stan The Nearly-Man, as he was previously known, found some extra magic when it mattered to run out the unlikely hero. Superb angled serves were cleverly blended with bludgeoning serves down the middle – reaching a speed of 219km per hour (136mph) on one occasion. Wawrinka found fluency in his wonderful single-handed back-hand, and enough power in his forehand to go toe to toe with the formidable Serb.
Now the Australian title is up for grabs, with Rafa Nadal the favourite. But Andy Murray and Roger Federer will be starting to feel that this might be their year too.
There was also a shock in the women’s singles, when 19-year-old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard downed Ana Ivanovic to set up a semi-final against Li Na.
But Melbourne is still buzzing with Wawrinka’s extraordinary achievement. And it raised one fascinating question. What could Wawrinka achieve if he was built like a tennis player?
Short and chunky, Stan the Man’s mighty victory over Novak is the sporting equivalent of a wart-hog turning round and eating a lion in Africa.
Wawrinka won’t want to finish there and the Australian Open has really caught fire now. Beautiful, unpredictable matches in this, the Golden Age of tennis, have left us transfixed yet again.
Does this whet your appetite for Wimbledon? If you want to see this year’s classic five-setters on grass, click on the link and book your place!