Sunday, 26 January 2014

Men's Final - Rafa Nadal v Stanislas Wawrinka

The dream final for organisers before the draw came out was a Spanish player v Swiss star, and that is what transpired after 2 weeks of tennis.  That the Swiss representative would be Stanislas Wawrinka surprised most but he has proved to be popular with fans and the final featuring him and the world number one Rafa Nadal has provoked much interest.  It was going to be the debut for Stan in a final at this level, and for Rafa the opportunity to win his 14th such title, equalling Pete Sampras who just happened to be called upon to present the trophy once this clash was completed later in the night.
How much later?  Well much of the talk has surrounded Stan's defeat of the reigning champ Novak Djokovic in the quarter final, and how that gives him cause for hope in the final.  However there is the form of his rival to consider seriously.  It took Stan five tough sets to only just knock over a clearly, and by Stan's own admission, below par Djokovic.  Meanwhile on the other side of the draw, Rafa has had encounters with Nishikori and Dimitrov which he managed to win with his opponents playing possibly their best tennis, with only a single set dropped to Dimitrov.  Then he thrashed the by all accounts "back to his best" Roger Federer in the semi final just two nights ago.
All 12 meetings so far between Stan and Rafa have gone the way of Spain, and Rafa deserves to have hot favouritism, and also my selection as the winner of this years Australian Open.

Nadal won the toss and sent Stan to the pitchers mound to serve the first delivery of the final.
A long rally first up ended with a Rafa forehand hit long.  Same again for same result and 30-0.  Serving well Stan overcooked a backhand before Rafa's forehand went wide this time providing Stan with two game points, the first of which Rafa ended by shovelling a backhand into the lower part of the newly named Federer net.  Stan 1-0
Two over hit Swiss shots, a return of serve then a forehand, were combined with a wide return and Rafa had 40-0. A forehand cross court played by Rafa into the part of the court where Stan once was gave him the levelling game 1-1
Stan won the first point on his next serve with a telling forehand.  Another forehand forced Rafa to hit long and it was 30-0.  A loose backhand hit the net but a stunning forehand down the line, then a backhand to the same place promoted Stan to a 2-1 lead.
So far so good for Stan who was playing with a lot of flair, but also fairly accurately too.
A shocking attempt at a dropshot by Rafa received what it deserved - backhand cross court winner from Stan, who couldn't return the next one and it was 15-15.
Double fault from Rafa and then a backhand pass nearly knocking the racquet out of Rafa's hand - two break points.  A Swiss forehand forced another Spanish error and the first break surprisingly went against the top seed.
A backhand wide from Stan was helped by a big serve which didn't come back legally, then an ace which by definition just didn't come back.  Another of those ace things and a serve backhand volley combination consolidated the break and Stan led 4-1.
An angry forehand from Rafa pushing Stan into a mistake, followed by a stock standard Nadal forehand winner provided 30-0.  Luring Nadal to the wrong side of the court, Stan struck a backhand down the line for 30-30. Coming into the net Stan set up another break point once he had put away the simple backhand volley.  A timely serve of which Stan made a meal, plus a down the line backhand which missed for once, gave Rafa the game point.  A long long forehand reply from Stan changed the game score to 4-2 Wawrinka.
Stan served wide and going wider to give Rafa no chance then he came to the net again to put away the backhand volley winner.  A punishing forehand winner down the line raced him to 40-0.  A rare mishit gave a point to the charity case which Rafa had temporarily become.  An off forehand Nadal gem made it close, but Stan shut the door, no slammed the door in Rafa's face with a serve from which only Spanish tears could stem. 5-2 Wawrinka and Rafa serving to stay in the first set, and I can't believe I just typed those words.
Big serve first up had a nothing response, another had a far too big reply, a double fault just had a huge audience sigh.  An ace gave Rafa 40-15 Stan's final shot of the game was a forgettable forehand out of court and he would go to the line to serve for the set.
A mishit which looked like an on drive for six plus a Rafa forehand winner down the line, and a forehand winner cross court from the same racquet had Switzerland struggling at 0-40.  Rafa failed to return the next one, and he returned another two too long.  Deuce arrived just in time for Stan.  Set point arrived soon after when Rafa insisted that the court was not big enough for the shots he wanted to hit.
Stan aced the top seed to take the set in the best looking way possible. 6-3
Bookies smiled.  Coming to the net and serve volleying just a little to mix up the game - at least one Swiss player had been listening to Stefan Edberg!
Two blistering Swiss groundstrokes for winners had Nadal quivering at 0-30.  As Rafa found the net for 0-40, and a time violation was called, Stan was winding up for a backhand return which he delivered at such a speed that the ball was past Nadal almost before he had completed his ball toss.  1-0 Stan
An ace  to make things easy, plus a poor return off a second serve by Nadal led to 30-0.  Frustrated, Rafa hit one way long, nod only Stan's generosity with a push wide put Rafa on the board this game.  Taking his compassion a bit too far Stan pushed one long before coming to his senses, and the net, to put away a winning forehand volley 2-0 Wawrinka.
Rafa scored first on the back of a backhand error from Stan, but Rafa could do that too, and belted a backhand out of court.  A wide backhand from Stan and a backhand return into the net gave 40-15 to Nadal.  He didn't appreciate it and stuck a forehand into the net.  Yet another backhand mistake, by Rafa this time, brought us to deuce, and the 6th and 7th backhand errors of the game, both committed by Stan, brought the agony to an end and the scoreline to 2-1 Wawrinka.
Medical timeout for Rafa, who needed something at the moment as a circuit breaker because nothing on court was working, while everything Stan touched seemed to fire.
3-1 in a flash as Stan aced and smashed his way through the lack of defence of Rafa.
0-15 with a winner from Stan just a little too easy.  15-15 only because Stan committed the error wide, and with the double fault suddenly 15-30.  Rafa's forehand was terrible as it floated long and an attempted drop shot was run down with ease by Wawrinka who led 4-1.   A set and two breaks to the good and Rafa not moving all that well.  This was writing on the wall that didn't read too well for Spanish fans.
40-0 after an ace an not much from the return.  A point did fall Rafa's way courtesy of a net cord, and then a backhand cross court winner on return provoked Stan into error on his backhand.  Deuce became adv Stan after another ace and a backhand down the line sewed up another game for a 5-1 lead.
Stan's enthusiasm meant the forehand went a little far but Rafa gave him two errors back in quick succession.  A third, again with too much length brought up two set points.  One was saved with Rafa putting away a volley, the next by a careless backhand from Stan.  Rafa was not moving well and the next set point came with a wide shot but saved with a backhand winner.  Two Stan errors gave the game to Nadal but he was not in the match at all.  Stan led 5-2 and Rafa was taking no time between serves.  He had given this set away for certain - any points or games he won were just pure stats.
Stan served a double and was for the moment not playing as he should against a player inhibited like Nadal.  That was soon rectified and two set points came after an ace and forehand winner.  One more ace and the set was his 6-2.  He led the match 6-3 6-2 and unless there was a Nadal substitution available the trophy for the winner was already being inscribed with Stan's name.
Rafa began the third set serving.  No improvement as the weak forehand went long and a poor backhand played with no conviction fell the wrong side of the net. 15-30 came with a Wawrinka shot out of court, but two break points arrived with another Nadal mistake.  Both were saved by Wawrinka being too enthusiastic and going for outright winners. Rafa then found a forehand at the bottom of his tennis bag and hit it down the line for a winner.  Stan made a mistake and Rafa led 1-0.
A double fault and a better Nadal forehand combined for 0-30.  Stan won the next but a Rafa forehand down the line brought up two break chances.  One saved with an ace.  A strangely subdued Stan stuck one into the net and Rafa had the break and led 2-0.
Serving had picked up and Stan's returning dropped off to give Nadal 30-0.  However a forehand winner from Wawrinka and a shot pushed wide by Rafa made it 30-30.  Stan pushed one wide too and one into the net to confirm a mini comeback for the top seed 3-0 Nadal
An awesome return using an increasingly fitter looking forehand drew Rafa level at 15-15, but a series of big serves including multiple aces put Stan on the board, trailing 1-3.
A forcing forehand made up for the first point disaster and Rafa had 15-15.  This was 40-15 after a down the line winner and a Stan misfire.  Rafa wrapped it up with a forehand sizzler down the line once more to lead 4-1.
Stan was making more mistakes now and Rafa was hitting his share of winners including a wonderful backhand to have Stan under pressure 15-30.  A couple of clean winners from the Swiss racquet steadied the course Stan was taking away from the choppy seas and Rafa led 4-2.
A backhand pushed wide by Rafa was countered by a complete mishit by Stan, both worth 15 to the other player.  Also worth 15 but looking a hell of a lot better was a backhand winner crosscourt by Stan.  Rafa overcame that stinging shot by launching into a groundstroke of his own to level at 30-30, then Stan took off any pressure by committing mistakes on the last two points.  Rafa led 5-2.
A tricky shot by Stan gave Rafa no swinging room, and his serves on the next two points were unreturnable  and an ace.  His final point was won with a stunning winner into open court.  5-3 Rafa.
A forehand winner from Switzerland and another forehand with not the same success provoked Nadal into an awful shot, and then a not quite so awful shot, both costing a point.  Two break points.  Both saved by Wawrinka impatience and errors.
Another bad shot from Stan and it was set point.  This time Stan hit the winner he wanted before - a forehand for deuce.  Set point again with an out of court shot by Wawrinka, and the set was Nadal's once the ball was nestled into the bottom of the net on Stan's side.  Wawrinka led Nadal two sets to one 6-3 6-2 3-6 and Nadal had miraculously risen from the depths.

Clever use of placement both on serve and groundstrokes created 40-0 for Wawrinka, as Nadal could not place a full racquet on anything.  He could. to place any part of a racquet on the last backhand of Stan's as it raced cross court for a winner.  Stan 1-0
Both players pushed shots wide ahead of Rafa's forehand pulled into the net.  15-30.  Break points arrived after the Wawrinka down the line forehand.  Playing too far behind the baseline, Stan hit three successive errors, and just to prove his position three rows into the crowd was not going to work, Rafa put a forehand cross court in front of him. 1-1
Rafa began going after the Swiss serve but he couldn't do much when a thunderbolt approached.  At 15-15 Stan unleashed winning with his serve, then firing a clean winner and volleying into open court to hold for 2-1.
A limp return didn't complete the journey over the net, and Stan overcompensated and nearly hit one into the crowd.  Another one slightly long created three game points for Nadal, two of which he wasted into the net.  Finally a return nearly out of the arena was sufficient for Rafa to level at 2-2.
A forehand winner by Nadal was answered soundly with two aces by Stan.  A serve to the body made it difficult for Nadal and he couldn't keep it in court, and a net cord directed the final ball out of court to seal the 3-2 advantage for Stan.
A searching rally was finished when Stan picked off a Nadal short ball with a forehand winner.  He had the chance to put away another winner next point but hit it long, just as Rafa did to trail 15-30.  Two break points once Rafa hit the net.  Stan took a giant step to the title with a withering forehand down the line.  4-2 with the break.
Two poor shots from Stan gave Rafa hope at 0-30.  A complete mishit brought three break points in the Spanish direction.  A terrible miss down the line and games were back on serve 4-3 Wawrinka.
A big serve polished off with a winning forehand was compromised for Rafa baby the next shot into the net.  Then Stan out thought Rafa in an extended rally forcing an error with a great backhand  for 15-30.  At the net Rafa failed to put the ball over and it was two break points.  A sweet Swiss forehand down the line broke Rafa once more and at 5-3 Stan would serve for the match.

Big serve and returned long for 15-0.  Return into net for 30-0. Clever serve swinging away forces wide return 40-0 three championship points.  Won by Stanislas Wawrinka with appropriately a forehand winner.
Stan won the 2014 Australian Open by defeating Rafa Nadal 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3
It was thoroughly deserved from the very start, and when you consider that to win the title Wawrinka defeated the two top seeds, no arguments can be given as to the worth of the champion.

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