MELBOURNE, Australia — Stan Wawrinka held off an injured Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory Sunday in the Australian Open final.
The 28-year-old Swiss player had never taken a set off Nadal in 12 previous meetings, but dominated from the start at Melbourne Park against the 13-time major winner.
Nadal appeared to be on the verge of retiring in the second set, when he hurt his back and needed a medical time out, but recovered slowly after getting treatment to push Wawrinka to four sets.
Nadal has had a terrible stretch with injuries at the Australian Open, and has described it as his unluckiest Grand Slam. He missed the 2013 edition during a seven-month layoff with knee injuries and illness, and his quarterfinal losses in 2010 and 2011 were affected by injuries.
There hadn’t been a retirement in a men’s final since the 1990 Australian Open when Stefan Edberg quit in the third, after splitting the first two sets with Ivan Lendl.
Nadal took a medical timeout after falling behind a set and a break, and returned to a chorus of boos without a shirt after 7 minutes.
Wawrinka was aggravated during the medical time out, demanding to know why Nadal needed the break. And he came out aggressively to finish off the second set.
After losing the next game to go behind 3-1, Nadal retreated to the back of the court, appearing to be on the verge of tears.
He needed more treatment on the side of the court after falling behind 4-1.
Nadal saved a set point and held serve, and sat with his face in his hands at the changeover, before Wawrinka came out to serve out the set for a 2-0 lead.
By this time the crowd started getting behind Nadal again, cheering him to continue.
The world No. 1 saved breakpoints to hold in the opening game of the third set and then broke Wawrinka and held for a 3-0 lead.
He won the third set as Wawrinka’s errors started escalating, the No. 8-ranked player unable to handle the pressure of being in his first Grand Slam final and with an injured opponent on the other side of the net.
After an exchange of breaks in the fourth, Wawrinka composed himself to break Nadal and then serve it out in 2 hours, 21 minutes, capping a tournament in which he beat the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked players. He beat three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals and will move up from No. 8 to No. 3 in the rankings with his title win.