Having already prevented an all-Swiss final, Rafael Nadal will look to end another Swiss dream at the Australian Open when he seeks to end the incredible run of Stanislas Wawrinka.
Nadal was imperious in disposing of Roger Federer in the semifinals and now takes on a man against whom his record is even more dominant. The Spaniard has met Wawrinka 12 times previously and incredibly the man from Lausanne has yet to win even a single set. The statistics do not make for encouraging reading for Wawrinka heading into his first Grand Slam final. Yet, it is a position which is hardly likely to faze him.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” That is the motto that Wawrinka had inked into his left forearm early last year and it is one with which he has lived by since, culminating in his performance these past two weeks in Melbourne.
At the same setting last year, Wawrinka was agonizingly beaten by Novak Djokovic 12-10 in the fifth set of a fourth-round thriller. Fast forward seven months and the 28-year-old again fell to Djokovic in five sets, this time in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Wawrinka had lost 14 straight matches to the Serbian. No matter. In the quarterfinals this year, Wawrinka played with an incredible fearlessness to finally get the better of him.
“Before, to beat Djokovic, it was the same,” Djokovic said of his record against Nadal. “Just the fact that I'm always trying and I always think that I can change the statistics, that's positive.”
“I think [Nadal is] playing for sure some of his best tennis. Especially when you have to play the night session here, it's a little bit slower. He can really play his game and try to play aggressive. I played him so many times, lost so many times, but I’m going to try again. I know what I have to do. I know that I have to play aggressive, serve really well, and trying to always push him. We'll see how I can do that tomorrow night.”
Wawrinka will be looking to maintain his superb serving performance the past two weeks as well as pursuing an aggressive strategy. Yet, Federer came into his semifinal with the same hopes and was brutally dismissed by the relentless groundstrokes of Nadal after a bright start.
Nadal has continued his extraordinary return from a knee injury in his first appearance in Melbourne in two years and now has the chance to win his third Grand Slam of out the four he has competed in since his comeback. A victory on Sunday night would not only give the 27-year-old his second Australian Open crown but it would also take him onto 14 Grand Slam titles and equal with the man who will present the trophy, Pete Sampras, in second place on the all-time list. He would then have Federer’s tally of 17 firmly in his sights.
It has often looked in recent days that the only thing that could stop Nadal’s march to the title would be a problematically placed blister on his left hand. The bandage used to protect it caused him plenty of serving problems in his four-set quarterfinal win over Grigor Dimitrov. But switching to smaller tape in his semifinal appeared to pay dividends, although it is a continued testament to Nadal’s mental and physical toughness that it has had so little impact.
“We made the tape a little bit smaller,” Nadal said after his win over Federer. “That helped me. It is true that by making the tape smaller, I assume there is a little bit more risk that the tape can go.
“I don't know how many times I can change the tape during the match, because to change the tape I need the trainer. I need to wait for the end of the set. Or if it is an emergency that happens that the tape goes in that point, I need the trainer in that moment. If that happens again, I don't know what the rules are, but it is a little bit more risky.”
Where to watch: The Australian Open men’s final is scheduled to get underway at 3.30 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream provided by Watch ESPN.