MELBOURNE, Australia — For 35 Grand Slam tournaments, the words of an Irish poet became something of a mantra for Stan Wawrinka. After one too many defeats, he had them inscribed on his left arm.
At each ball toss, if he cared to glance, he could see the words of Samuel Beckett: ‘’Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
He’s going to have to come up with something new after beating top-ranked Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Sunday night. Nadal was clearly hampered by a back injury after the first set, but Wawrinka blocked that out of his mind to win 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Coming into the first major of 2014, Wawrinka hadn’t beaten No. 1-ranked Nadal in a dozen matches, and had a 14-match losing streak against No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who won three straight Australian Open titles from 2011-’13. He wasn’t even the highest-ranked player in Switzerland, not surprising considering he was playing in Roger Federer’s generation.
“I had that quote in my head for a long time. It was part of my life, how I see the life, and especially how I see the tennis life,” Wawrinka said of the Beckett quote.
He was pessimistic about anyone breaking the dominance of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray — the so-called Big Four who accounted for all but one of the previous 35 major titles.
“It’s not easy because tennis life, when you lose, it’s tough to get through and to take a positive from a loss, from failing from a tournament,” he said. “So that’s how I see, in general, my career. I always go back to practice to try to improve myself and to give me all the chance to beat the best player in the world.”