"Last thing that I wanted to do was retire. I hate to do that, especially in a final. Same time, is tough to see yourself during the whole year you are working for a moment like this, and arrives the moment and you feel that you are not able to play at your best. "
Nadal has had a terrible stretch with injuries at the Australian Open, and has described it as his unluckiest Grand Slam. He won the title in 2009, and lost an epic five-set final to Djokovic in 2012. But he missed the 2013 edition during a seven-month layoff with knee injuries and illness, and his quarterfinal losses in 2010 and 2011 were affected by injuries.
"It has been a very emotional two weeks — I'm sorry to finish this way," he told the Rod Laver Arena crowd. "I tried very, very hard — this year was one of the more emotional tournaments in my career."
A possible retirement was looming when Nadal was serving at 0-2 in the second set. He bent over at the waist to stretch his back and then grabbed his lower back with his hand and grimaced in pain. His serve immediately dipped to 141 kph (87 mph).
When Nadal took a medical timeout after falling behind a set and a break, and returned to a chorus of boos without a shirt after 7 minutes, it seemed that an early finish was on the cards.
Wawrinka was aggravated during the time out, demanding that officials tell him why Nadal needed the break. And he came out aggressively to finish off the second set.
Nadal's serve speed dipped even further to 125 kph (77 mph) and then 114 kph (70 mph). The support in the stadium gradually shifted as the crowd saw the Spaniard battling to stay on the court.
His service speed improved in the beginning of the third set, prompting a fan to yell advice to Wawrinka: "C'mon Stan, no sympathy!"
By the end of the set, Nadal's serve was back up to 174 kph (108 mph) and Wawrinka's error count was escalating.
Wawrinka composed himself after an exchange of breaks in the fourth set to serve it out in 2 hours, 21 minutes. After a muted celebration, he consoled Nadal in the courtside chairs before getting a chance to hold up and kiss his first big trophy.