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Inspired Wawrinka joins the big guys

AAP logoAAP 24/01/2014 Mike Hedge
Wawrinka © Narendra Shrestha/AAP Image Wawrinka

Over the past two weeks, Stanislas Wawrinka has had to alter his less-than-positive impressions of life and tennis.

But his view of the message tattooed on the inside of his left arm remains as it was when he began an Australian Open he believed would end in an early failure.

"I see the words, it is why they are there," Wawrinka said before his latest match superseded its predecessor as the as the most important he'd ever played.

"They mean the same for me always."

After Sunday night, though, they could need revision.

Wawrinka has long made clear his belief that Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic - the winners of all but three of the past 38 men's singles grand slams, are in a different league to him.

For that reason, he had the words of Irish poet Samuel Beckett inked onto his arm: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.

Whatever happens in Sunday night's final, the message has been superseded by Wawrinka's emergence at the age of 28 as one of the top half dozen players in the world.

"It's amazing, you know. I didn't expect to make a final in a grand slam in my career," the Swiss said after his semi-final victory.

"Tonight it's happening, so I'm really happy."

Until this week, Wawrinka held a different view of life and tennis - and one that stayed with him until the last point of his semi-final defeat of Tomas Berdych.

"I did that tattoo because it's a little bit like how I see my life, and especially my tennis life," he said in a pre-tournament interview in Melbourne.

"I've been playing 10 years .... but I only have five titles, so that means there's only been five weeks where I've finished like a winner.

"Rafa and Roger and Novak have been there for many years because they're better players and they're winning all the big titles ... they are better than us.

"But I'm also working really hard since many years, trying to improve my game, trying to get some big matches in big stadium.

"Now I'm the first final in a grand slam, so I can be only really happy."

If he hadn't been so tough on himself, Wawrinka might have taken more heart from his performances of last year when he returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2008, made the semis at the US Open and earned a career-high of $2.8 million.

One of the first signs of his imminent "arrival" came at Melbourne Park 12 months ago when he lost his quarter-final to Djokovic 12-10 in the fifth, failing valiantly to save a 20-shot match point.

Djokovic later took five gruelling sets to get past Wawrinka in their US semi-final, the 14th successive defeat he'd inflicted on the Swiss.

But that result at least clicked with Wawrinka.

"After the semi-final in US Open, I knew that I was close," he said.

"I was disappointed to lose against Novak in US Open, but I knew I was close with the level.

"But still it was not my goal at all to make a final in grand slam."

Despite all that, Wawrinka has achieved the goal he didn't have and now faces "one of the big guys" in Melbourne on Sunday.

And by Monday, he might be searching for alternative inspiration for his right arm.

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