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Tennis-Australian Open men's finalists

Reuters

MELBOURNE, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Brief biographies of the men's finalists at the 2014 Australian Open on Sunday (prefix denotes seeding):

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Rafa Nadal (Spain)

Age: 27

Seeded: 1

Grand slam titles: 13 - Australian Open (2009); French Open (2005-2008, 2010-2013); Wimbledon (2008, 2010); U.S. Open (2010, 2013)

Began playing tennis aged four, the naturally right-handed Nadal switched to being a left-hander after his coach and mentor Toni Nadal, also his uncle, suggested it would give him an advantage on court.

Became first man since Swede Mats Wilander in 1982 to win the French Open title on debut with a four-set victory over Argentine Mariano Puerta in June 2005, the first of four successive titles at Roland Garros.

In 2008 beat then world number one and defending champion Roger Federer to win his first Wimbledon title. The final is widely considered as the greatest tennis match of all time.

In 2009 beat Federer in the final in Melbourne to become the first Spaniard to win the Australian Open in another classic five-set showdown.

Was beaten in the French Open for the first time when he lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009. It was his first defeat after winning 31 successive matches at Roland Garros.

Regained Roland Garros crown in 2010, becoming the second man after Sweden's Bjorn Borg to win five French Open titles.

In 2010, he also won Wimbledon for the second time. He finished the year by winning his first U.S. Open title, becoming the seventh man to win all four grand slam titles.

In 2011 he won his sixth French Open title, equalling the record set by Borg. From 2008 to 2011 he won seven out of seven grand slam finals that he contested but this run came to an end against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2011.

The Serbian went on to beat Nadal in the final of the U.S. Open that year and the Australian Open at the start of 2012.

He ended world number one Djokovic's hopes of holding all four grand slam titles at the same time by winning his seventh French Open title at Roland Garros 2012, winning 6-4 6-3 2-6 7-5.

Underwent knee surgery that kept him out for the second half of the 2012 season and then missed the 2013 Australian Open with a stomach virus.

Returned to the ATP Tour and won four of his first five tournaments before he won his eighth French Open title - the first man to win the same grand slam eight times.

Surprisingly knocked out in the first round of Wimbledon by Belgium's Steve Darcis before he went unbeaten on North American hardcourts, winning at Montreal and Cincinnati and his second U.S. Open title.

Returned to number one ranking, three years after last holding it, in October 2013 and finished the year as world number one.

Path to the final 1st round - beat Bernard Tomic (Australia) 6-4 retired 2nd round - beat Thanasi Kokkinakis (Australia) 6-2 6-4 6-2 3rd round - beat 25-Gael Monfils (France) 6-1 6-2 6-3 4th round - beat 16-Kei Nishikori (Japan) 7-6 7-5 7-6 QF - beat 22-Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria) 3-6 7-6 7-6 6-2 SF - beat 6-Roger Federer (Switzerland) 7-6 6-3 6-3

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Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland)

Age: 28

Seeded: 8

Began playing at age eight, he has spent his entire career in the shadow of compatriot Roger Federer.

Left school at 15 to play tennis fulltime and won the junior French Open title in 2003 and two Challenger level titles in San Bendetto and Geneva. Was included in Switzerland's Davis Cup squad as an 18-year-old, beginning his long association with Federer.

Captured his first ATP tour level title in 2006 at Umag when Novak Djokovic retired with breathing difficulties in the final.

Broke into the world top 10 for first time in 2008 by reaching two ATP Tour finals and winning the gold medal in doubles with Federer at the Beijing Olympics.

Beat Federer for the first time in his career, a third round victory at Monte Carlo in 2009, though still inconsistent at grand slam level, unable to get past the fourth round.

Makes into final eight at a grand slam for first time in 2010 when he made the quarter-finals at the U.S. Open, beating Andy Murray in the fourth round.

Appears to have eliminated the inconsistency in 2013, starting with an epic five-set marathon against two-times defending champion Djokovic at Melbourne Park in fourth round, eventually losing 12-10 in the fifth.

Uses that to propel him to most consistent year on ATP Tour, with 14 quarter-final or better finishes. Captures fourth career title at Oeiras, beating world number four David Ferrer.

Reaches his first quarter-final at Roland Garros and then goes one better at U.S. Open with semi-final loss to Djokovoic, again in five sets.

Qualifies for his first ATP World Tour Finals appearance in London and reached the semi-finals before he lost to Djokovic.

Begins 2014 with his fifth ATP Tour title at Chennai.

Path to the Australian Open final: 1st round - beat Andrey Golubev (Kazakhstan) 6-4 4-1 retired 2nd round - beat Alejandro Falla (Colombia) 6-3 6-3 6-7 6-4 3rd round - beat 28-Vasek Pospisil (Canada) walkover 4th round - beat 17-Tommy Robredo (Spain) 6-3 7-6 7-6 QF - beat 2-Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 2-6 6-4 6-2 3-6 9-7 SF - beat 7-Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) 6-3 6-7 7-6 7-6

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(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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