Wawrinka ready for Nadal test
7:16am Saturday 25th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Stanislas Wawrinka is confident he has the game plan to beat Rafael Nadal and win his first grand slam title at the Australian Open on Sunday.
The first-time slam finalist would have been a big underdog even without the one-sided nature of their head-to-head record.
Not only has Wawrinka never beaten Nadal in 12 previous meetings, he has never even won a set.
Watching Nadal's semi-final destruction of his Swiss countryman Roger Federer would have only served to remind Wawrinka of what a formidable task he has ahead.
However, the eighth seed is taking comfort from the fact three of his last four sets against Nadal have gone to tie-breaks, while he ended a similar losing streak against Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
"I think he's playing some of his best tennis," said Wawrinka of Nadal. "Especially when you have to play 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 try to always push him.
"His game is quite tough for me, especially with my one-handed backhand. But I did some good matches last year against him. I've found a few things that I will try tomorrow.
"I'm playing my best tennis here, physically I'm ready. I had two days off, so that's perfect for me before the final. I'm going to try everything.
"Before beating Djokovic it was the same. Just the fact that I'm always trying and I always think that I can change the statistics, that's positive."
Both Wawrinka and Federer had been dreaming of a first all-Swiss grand slam final, and the latter's defeat means he will drop to Swiss number two.
Wawrinka is guaranteed to climb to world number five and would move up to third by taking the title, while Federer will slide further to number eight.
"For sure it would have been amazing to play Roger in the final," said Wawrinka.
"But I'm happy to play Rafa. He's a really good friend. We practise a lot together. He's an amazing champion."
While a lot of attention in Melbourne has been on Federer's new coaching relationship with Stefan Edberg, it is Wawrinka's partnership with a less-heralded Swede that has been the catalyst for the 28-year-old's sudden improvement.
Wawrinka linked up with Magnus Norman, who guided his countryman Robin Soderling to two grand slam finals, last spring and has made the leap from dangerous outsider to grand slam challenger.
"We have a great relationship," said Wawrinka. "He's a great guy and a really good coach.
"He always wants more, so it's great for me that I have someone behind me always trying to show me how to be a better player.
"I have more confidence in myself. I know that when I go on court I can beat almost everybody, even on the big stage."
World number one Nadal is bidding for his 14th grand slam title and to become the first man in the Open era to win each of the four majors at least twice.
He believes his previous success against Wawrinka counts for little because of the rapid improvement the Swiss has made.
Nadal said: "I saw him play against Novak, I saw him play against (Tomas) Berdych. He's playing great. He's a good friend, a great guy, so I'm happy for him that he's in the final. He deserves it. He's playing better and better every year.
"He's serving unbelievable. He's hitting the ball very strong from the baseline. He's a player that is ready to win against everybody today."
Both men come into the tournament unbeaten this season, with Wawrinka winning an ATP Tour event in Chennai earlier this month and Nadal in Doha.
Nadal is in the final in Melbourne for a third time having beaten Federer in 2009 and lost to Djokovic two years ago, but it has been a troublesome venue for the Spaniard.
Last year he missed the tournament with knee problems while in 2010 and 2011 he was hampered by injuries.
Nadal said: "For me it's a very important thing to start the season this way again. Coming back here, the support of the crowd is just amazing for me.
"I've had very emotional moments on Rod Laver Arena in the past, very emotional moments this year, especially because this is the grand slam that I really had more problems at in my career.
"Lot of years I didn't have a chance to play (well) in this tournament that I really love, so it is very special to have the chance to be in the final again."