MELBOURNE, Australia >> After winning the Australian Open, some players have jumped for joy into the Yarra River. Many pop champagne and indulge in late-night celebrations. Most set new goals and start thinking about the Grand Slams they want to win next.
This was not the case for Stan Wawrinka, who woke up Monday morning groggy but sober and still stunned that he had beaten Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title.
“I still don’t completely realize what’s happened. It still feels like a dream,” Wawrinka told reporters, squinting in the sunlight for the winner’s traditional day-after photo shoot on the banks of the river beside Melbourne Park. Handed a bottle of champagne and told to spray it in celebration, he politely obliged and then put it down.
Wawrinka was and still is pessimistic about denting the dominance of Roger Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — the so-called Big Four who accounted for all but one of the previous 35 major titles.
“I really never dreamed about winning a Grand Slam,” he said, clutching his trophy. “I don’t know about doing it again. But I did it, and no one can take it back.”
The morning after the biggest day of his career, Wawrinka was more subdued than overjoyed. His night went late but was tame. There was no big dinner or any food at all, no partying, just spending time with his team and having a Skype session with his wife and 3-year-old daughter in Switzerland. Now, he says he’s looking forward to taking some time after the Davis Cup next weekend to reflect on “what happened” in Melbourne.
Here’s what happened.
Wawrinka won his first Grand Slam. On his way to the title, he upset No. 2-ranked Djokovic in the quarterfinals and then beat No. 1-ranked Nadal in the final, despite having never beaten either before. He became the first man in 21 years to beat the top two players before winning a major.
As a result, Wawrinka rises to a career-high ranking of No. 3, moving five spots up from No. 8.
The 28-year-old becomes Switzerland’s highest-ranked player for the first time in his career, overtaking 17-time Grand Slam-winner Federer, his friend and mentor, who started the Australian Open at No. 6 and was expected to drop to No. 8 despite reaching the semifinals.
“Everything that’s happened is quite crazy,” Wawrinka said. “When you’re No. 3 and you win a Grand Slam, journalists expect you to say, ‘Now I want to be No. 1.’ But I feel it’s so far for me, so far from my level. That’s why it’s not my goal.”
Relentlessly aggressive on the court, Wawrinka gives the impression off-court that he doesn’t want to revel in his success for fear of jinxing it. Occasionally, he allows himself to be proud.
“Now I know I can beat everybody. The big stage in a Grand Slam doesn’t matter,” said Wawrinka, but added that he’s in the same position as Juan Martin del Potro, whose title at the 2009 U.S. Open is the only one of the past 35 majors not won by the Big Four. “Since (del Potro) won the U.S. Open everybody wants him to win another Grand Slam. But it’s not that simple.”
He doesn’t like to think too far ahead, but indulged one question about what it will be like to walk through the halls of Rod Laver Arena next year and see his picture up on the walls with the other champions.
“First thing I will do, I’m going to come back and take a picture of myself,” Wawrinka said. “Again it’s a dream. It’s big. When I see all those champions, for me, they’re the real champions. To be there is just something crazy