Wawrinka, Li Win Australian Open

Image from  abc.net.au

Image from abc.net.au

It was an Australian Open of surprises, upsets and unpredictable matches that ended with a first for both men’s and women’s tennis.  Stanislas Wawrinka captured his first Grand Slam title in his major debut at the Australian Open while Li Na also won her first Australian Open and second Grand Slam championship.

On Sunday’s final against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Stanislas Wawrinka held firm to win 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. After losing the first two sets, Nadal looked teary eyed and ready to give up while struggling with an apparent back injury. The No. 8-seeded Wawrinka seemed in complete control until he was stunned by a revived opponent in the third set. Nadal started hitting clean shots in contrast to the barrage of unforced errors by Wawrinka, and soon the match entered its fourth set.

Wawrinka got an early break in the fourth set, but quickly surrendered it after a terrible service game. He eventually recovered and got back on top after aggressive play and imperious shots. Wawrinka captured the victory and threw his arms up in celebration after he hit a clean forehand winner down the line on match point.

Image from usatoday.com

Image from usatoday.com

A visibly distraught Nadal shook his hand and later Wawrinka consoled the 13-time Grand Slam winner at his chair.

“First, Rafa, I’m really sorry for you, I hope your back is okay, you are a great friend and a great champion,” Wawrinka said at the trophy ceremony. “You did a remarkable comeback last year. For me it’s the best grand slam ever.”

Wawrinka had never won a set, let alone a match, in all twelve previous matches against the top ranked player in the world. Now, Wawrinka will become No. 3 in the ATP rankings, the first time he will rank ahead of his fellow compatriot, 17-time major champion Roger Federer.

Wawrinka is only the second man since the 2005 Australian Open to win a Grand Slam outside of the Big Four of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray. Juan Martin del Potro captured the 2009 U.S. Open, also in his Grand Slam final debut.

“Right now I don’t know if I’m dreaming or not, but we’ll see tomorrow morning.” Wawrinka said.

One day earlier in the women’s finals Li Na beat Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets, 7-6 (3), 6-0 to win the 2014 Australian Open women’s title. After winning the first set tie-breaker against No. 20 seeded Cibulkova, Li dominated the second set, taking it in just 27 minutes.

“Finally I got her [the Australian Open trophy],” said Li. “The last two finals were very close.” Li , who turns 32 next month, had gone to the finals of the Aussie Open twice before, losing to Kim Clijsters in 2011 and to No. 2 ranked Victoria Azarenka last year.

After weeks of upsets and shockers throughout the tournament, the women’s draw was in chaos. Overwhelming favorite Serena Williams was out by the fourth round; No. 2-seeded Maria Sharapova was ousted by Cibulkova in the fourth round; defending champion Victoria Azarenka lost in the quarterfinals. With the top three players out before the semifinals, Li became the heavy favorite to win at Melbourne Park.

Li Na was also a crowd favorite at the Aussie Open because of her funny post-match interviews and humorous honesty. During her acceptance speech after the final match, Li said to her agent, Max Eisenbud, “Thanks for making me rich, thanks a lot.” And to her husband who was also in attendance: “Thanks a lot, you are a nice guy. Also you are so lucky.”

Li Na was urged on by a large attendance of Chinese supporters on Rod Laver Arena. Some waved Chinese flags or giant signs, others painted Chinese flags on their faces. Throughout the first set her fans chanted “Li Na, Let’s Go” in Mandarin during every changeover.

One fan even yelled “Come on Li, bagel her!” right after the second set began and Li delivered.

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