Stanislas Wawrinka beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal for his first Grand Slam title.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- An hour before the biggest match of his life, Stanislas Wawrinka sent a message.
"Relaxing before the final," he tweeted before Sunday's Australian Open final.
Visible were his legs and feet, crossed and splayed on a cushioned foot stool, as two members of his team looked on in the players lounge.
No matter that Wawrinka was facing No. 1 Rafael Nadal, to many the best big-match player in history. No matter that Wawrinka had lost all 12 of their meetings (and all 26 of their sets).
No matter that he was contesting his first Grand Slam tournament final and Nadal his 19th.
Once underway, Switzerland's Wawrinka spent the first hour bullying Nadal, lost his focus when the 13-time major winner from Spain injured his back early in the second set but regained his footing to win capture his maiden major 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena.
"Tonight was just the perfect start," eighth seed Wawrinka said.
Perennially in the shadow of fellow Swiss and good friend Roger Federer, Wawrinka pulled off a feat not even Federer or any player had achieved: Beating both Nadal and No.2 Novak Djokovic in a major.
Wawrinka will move to a career-high No. 3 Monday, the first time he has ranked ahead of 17-time major winner Federer, who he teamed with to win the 2008 Olympic gold medal in doubles.
"I saw Roger winning so many Grand Slams in the past, so now it's my turn to win one," said Wawrinka, the first man to win a major besides Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Andy Murray since Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 U.S. Open. "I did have an amazing two weeks, and I was playing my best tennis ever."
The transformation of Wawrinka, 28, is nothing short of remarkable.
Possessed of a big serve and powerful arsenal off both wings — especially his explosive one-handed backhand — Wawrinka had been a solid top-20 player for years. But he usually came a few points shy of reaching his potential until finishing in the top 10 last year.
He could pull off the occasional big win, – such as beating Wimbledon champion Murray on his way to the U.S Open semifinals last year, – but rarely strung them together.
Until Sunday's win, Wawrinka owned only five minor ATP Tour titles.
But after teaming up with coach Magnus Norman of Sweden last April, the late bloomer Wawrinka has come into his own.
Former No. 2 Norman on Sunday called Wawrinka "a diamond that was a little bit unpolished" and compared him to Robin Soderling, the man Norman coached to perhaps the biggest upset in the last decade when Soderling beat Nadal at Roland Garros, – still the eight-time French Open champion's only loss there.
"Maybe I helped him with the last steps, small things," said Norman, who conceded Wawrinka's win was "a little beyond" his expectations.
He explained it the difference was simply helping Wawrinka carry more self-belief into big matches and finding the right balance of patience and aggression.
"You've got to take your cuts, of course," he said of playing Nadal, "but at the right time."
Pete Sampras, back in Melbourne to present the men's trophy 20 years after his first title Down Under, was impressed by Wawrinka's poise under pressure.
"I thought he'd be a little bit ...– just uptight," said Sampras, who also won his Grand Slam debut in the 1990 U.S. Open at 19.
"I think the right person won," added Sampras said. "He's the real deal."
For Nadal, who was seeking to become the first man in the Open era to win all four majors at least twice, Melbourne continues to be a tough-luck tournament. He captured the title in 2009 and lost a marathon five-set final to Djokovic in 2012. He missed the 2013 tournament during a seven-month layoff to nurse his injured knees, and his quarterfinal defeats in 2010 and 2011 were affected by injuries.
As long as he stays healthy, Nadal will be back.
"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."
The win alters the dynamic of a tour lorded over by the so-called Big Four, who until Sunday had won 34 of the last 35 majors.
"It's a monumental win for the second-tier guys," said three-time Australian Open winner Mats Wilander of Sweden. "The door is open."
Next up for Wawrinka, who is married with a 3-year-old daughter, is a tough first-round Davis Cup tie against Serbia this coming weekend.
Norman said the Swiss, now 10-0 in 2014, is well-positioned to do more damage in the months ahead, especially on clay in the spring, where he has had his best results.
"One of the good things coaching Stan — he always wants more," said Norman. "I'm not worried about any letdown."
Asked by an interviewer on Australian TV if he was ready to win at Roland Garros, Wawrinka, still pinching himself, laughed.
"Don't go too far, please," he said.
PHOTOS: Wawrinka's Aussie Open crown