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Busted Racquet

Rafael Nadal falls in four sets to Stan Wawrinka in Australian Open final

Busted Racquet
Rafael Nadal of Spain grimaces as he receives a medical treatment to his back in the men's singles final against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014
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Rafael Nadal of Spain grimaces as he receives a medical treatment to his back in the men's singles final against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014.(AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill)

Well, this was unexpected. Stanislas Wawrinka, the eighth seed in this year's Australian Open, stepped up and knocked off a battered but still vicious Rafael Nadal in a four-set triumph. This marked Wawrinka's first Grand Slam, while Nadal failed in his attempt to win his 14th.

Nadal was already playing through a gruesome blister on his left hand, and early in Sunday's final appeared to suffer a back injury that limited his mobility. Wawrinka was able to take the first two sets 6-3, 6-2 ... and then things got interesting.

You don't count out Nadal until he's on the plane back to Spain, and sometimes not even then. Nadal adjusted his game mid-match, forcing Wawrinka into unforced errors and eventually claiming a 6-3 set win. But Wawrinka steadied himself, breaking Nadal twice in the final set to win 6-3 and take the Australian Open for his own.

"First, Rafa, I'm really sorry for you, I hope your back is OK. You are a great friend and a great champion," Wawrinka said at the trophy ceremony afterward. "For me it's the best Grand Slam ever. Right now I still don't know if I'm dreaming. I guess I'll find out in the morning."

Wawrinka is the first player in 21 years to beat the top two seeds at a Grand Slam, taking down Novak Djokovic earlier in the tournament. Astonishingly, Wawrinka is just the second player in the last nine years, after Juan Martin del Potro at the U.S. Open in 2009, to take a major from the Nadal-Federer-Djokovic-Andy Murray quartet.

Nadal was wracked with both grief and pain. He congratulated Wawrinka, then continued, "To all the crowd, it's been an emotional two weeks. Sorry to finish this way. I tried very, very hard." Nadal appeared to tweak his back early in the second set, requiring a short period of medical assistance. Some in the crowd booed Nadal, who double-faulted away point after point afterward.

Still, for Nadal, although this was a rocky match, the future remains bright. Next up on the major circuit is the French Open, where he's lost exactly once in the past nine years. Nadal stands at third all-time on the career Grand Slam list, one behind Pete Sampras, who was in attendance in Melbourne, and three behind Roger Federer.

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Stan Wawrinka accepts his trophy as Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal look on.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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