The big four of men’s tennis might have company. Swiss player Stan Wawrinka made waves across the professional tennis world this weekend when he took home his first Grand Slam title victory by hoisting the trophy at the Australian Open.
Wawrinka played arguably his best tennis in the early rounds, and capped his impressive run through the tournament with a victory over a clearly injured Rafael Nadal. Ranked No. 1 in the world, Nadal was the clear favorite in Melbourne. In fact, he had won the Australian Open before and it is the only Grand Slam tournament that he hasn’t won twice.
His plans of a repeat victory were put on hold when Nadal injured his back in the second set of the championship match against Wawrinka. It looked like Nadal might just retire the match, but instead, Wawrinka cruised to a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win. Wawrinka told media after the match that he felt sorry for Nadal, but he certainly was going to enjoy the landmark victory.
For a while now, Nadal has owned the sport of tennis by a wide margin along with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. However, as of late, more players have crept into the picture, including David Ferrer (now ranked No. 3) and Juan Martin Del Potro (No. 5).
Wawrinka should join those ranks after his big victory, and with Federer aging and his performance fading, the big four’s grip on the sport is starting to loosen, which could add a little parity and entertainment value.
Not only did Wawrinka oust No. 1-ranked Nadal, but he also beat the second-best player in tennis in Djokovic. Those two locked up against each other in last year’s Australian Open. Djokovic won in a marathon match and ended up winning the entire thing.
Wawrinka seems to be firing on all cylinders now and it is starting to become apparent why fellow countryman Federer dubbed him with the nickname “The Stanimal”.
On the women’s side, an early tournament loss by No. 1-ranked Serena Williams made things interesting. Williams, who had won the tournament five other times, was awarded with an early departure after falling to Ana Ivanovic, who is currently ranked No. 14.
Instead, it was No. 4-ranked Li Na out of China that took home the hardware from this year’s Australian Open. She defeated Dominika Cibulkova 7-6, 6-0. Na was notorious for always being in the mix in Melbourne, but falling short of sealing the deal. She reached the finals in 2011 and 2013 and was turned back.
Now, at the ripe old age of 32, Na finally broke through for the victory. This was her second Grand Slam victory of her career. She also won a French Open title in 2011. As Na gets older, you have to wonder if she is about to call it quits.
In fact, leading up to the Australian Open, there was some chatter that she might retire. But, with two Grand Slam victories in recent history, maybe her best years are still in front of her.
Maybe tennis memorabilia from these two Australian Open winners will be in higher demand. As new names filter in to the game of tennis and begin to win big tournaments their notoriety begins to grow and help the sport as a whole.