Wawrinka ready for Open final
In their 12 matches, Stanislas Wawrinka has never won a single set against Rafael Nadal.
In his 11 years as a tennis professional, Wawrinka has never played in a grand slam final.
And until a few days ago, he never thought he ever would.
But on Sunday armed with a large, new dose of self-belief, Wawrinka will go onto Rod Laver Arena and play off against the world No.1 for an Australian Open title he truly believes he can win.
Wawrinka has arrived at his career-crowning match on the back of a quarter-final victory over pre-tournament favourite, defending champion and world no.2 Novak Djokovic, and a semi-final defeat of seventh seed Tomas Berdych.
Such wins would give any player confidence.
For Wawrinka, they were life-changing.
“I know that when I go on court, I can beat almost everybody, even in a grand slam,” he said on the eve of the final.
“So for sure it’s a lot about confidence.
“But also I’m playing my best tennis here. Physically I’m ready.”
Wawrinka’s “old best” wasn’t good enough to beat Nadal – the Spaniard’s 12-0 record against him is proof of that.
But he had a worse record against Djokovic and beat him last week. And his new search for positives has offered some encouragement.
“I play him so many times, lost so many times, but I’m going to try again,” Wawrinka said.
“I don’t care about losing 12 times to him – I don’t play the record, I play Rafa.
“He’s the no.1, the best player … his game is quite tough for me.”
Wawrinka and Nadal last met four times last year, most recently at the World Tour Finals where the Spaniard scraped home in two tiebreak sets that his opponent has taken as a clear positive.
“I did some good matches last year against him, some close ones. I find a few things I will try tomorrow – I’m going to try everything,” he said.
As he approaches his mature-age milestone, Wawrinka admits he’s nervous. He’s also happy, and excited.
In preparation for the final, he will practice soon after midday, have an early dinner and listen to some music.
He’ll also chat about “private things” with the man he has just deposed as Swiss no.1, his idol and 17-time grand slam winner Roger Federer, who lost to Nadal on Friday night.
“I’m sure he’s going to cheer for me,” Wawrinka said.
For Wawrinka, this will be just about as important as the $2.65 million he will be paid if he wins.