The 2014 championships saw the domination over the last three years by Novak Djokovic come to an end when Stanislas Wawrinka finally came good on one of their second week five match epics, deposing the defending champion for the second Slam in a row.
After Rafael Nadal defeated a resurgent Roger Federer in straight sets in the semi-final, many could have been forgiven for thinking that Nadal would continue his extraordinary comeback with a second Australian Open title but it was clear from the start that Wawrinka had come into the final with a new found sense of self-belief.
It was a good start by Wawrinka just one point of each of his serves, and delivering an early intent to punish any short balls by Nadal. Wawrinka was rewarded for his speedy court coverage with a break early and it was all he needed to keep his nose in front.
It was a test of his will as he came to serve out the first set, finding himself down three break points before clawing the all back. After just 37 minutes, the first set went to Wawrinka.
The second set could not have started any better, as he went on to break Nadal to love, taking all the time away from him and closing down the way that the Spaniard likes to play. It has to be said that Wawrinka’s court coverage was outstanding for the off.
But there was drama soon to come as Nadal looked to be in pain, calling for a trainer and leaving the court at the first change of ends – which appeared to rile Wawrinka a little as well as the crowd who initially roundly booed the Spaniard on his return.
But it was very clear on the restart that there was something very wrong, there was no power in his serve and no rotation through the action or on the back hand side.
Wawrinka largely remained focused to close out the second set, the crowd realising their earlier rashness at booing Nadal, trying to gee him up but fearing perhaps an early retirement.
It is not beyond reason that the anti-inflammatories he probably would have taken helped him move better enough to take the initiative from Wawrinka’s understandable loss of focus at the start of the third set, as Nadal picked up a an early break on the Swiss serve, staying ahead to take the third set.
It looked like Wawrinka had regained his focus as he broke for a 4-2 lead in the fourth set, but perhaps the nerves got to him, as he was broken straight back to love.
This was always going to be the big test for the Swiss, who in the past perhaps suffered from mental fragility when it came to closing out matches. He broke again to serve for the match.
For the first time, Nadal lost in a Slam final to a player other than Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, and Wawrinka had to get past both the World No. 2 (and four-time Australian Open champion) Novak Djokovic and the World No. 1 to earn his first Grand Slam title.
Stanislas Wawrinka def Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3
Li Na cemented her status as Asia’s best player by winning her second career Slam, as she swept to the Australian Open title in a straight sets win over Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova.
Li was the overwhelming favourite coming into the final having made it this far twice before, including a drama filled final last year where she twisted her ankle (twice) and got concussion after smacking her head on the hard-court in the second fall.
Thankfully this time she remained upright, but still had to fight through some tense moments, as pocket rocket Cibulkova fought back from handing Li an immediate break at the start of the match. The diminuitive Slovakian may have been in her first final but rarely appeared over-awed by the occasion, fighting for every ball.
Coming through the first set tie-break, though, Li just took control of the match, and was just too strong for Cibulkova, and Li became a two-time Slam champion and regains her world No. 3 ranking and is just a smattering of points away from World No. 2.
The match was good natured with both players winning the crowds over with their speeches in the trophy presentation on court after the match.
Cibulkova was the first player representing Slovakian to reach a Slam final and also took the time to thank Chris Evert, who presented the trophies, for allowing her to train in her off-season at Evert’s academy.
"These were just two fantastic weeks of my life - I think I'm going to cry," Cibulkova said, smiling through a few tears. "This means a lot for our country and I'm happy I can be the one who can be here for Slovakia. I'd also like to congratulate Li Na - she had a great tournament and deserved this."
Li Na gives the greatest post-match interviews and today’s was no exception – here are some of the best quotes!
“Max. Agent. Make me rich. Thanks a lot.” She continued: “My husband, even famous in China,” Li said. “Thanks for him [to] give up everything, just traveling with me to be my hitting partner, fix the drinks and fix the rackets. So thanks a lot. You’re a nice guy. And also you are so lucky to find me.”
She thanked her coach Carlos Rodriguez who masterminded Justine Henin’s career and has helped Li find new confidence in her game.
Li Na def. Dominika Cibulkova 7-6(3) 6-0