A BLEARY-EYED Stanislas Wawrinka was still trying to process his new status as a grand slam champion when he returned to Melbourne Park this morning.
Disbelief appeared to be the 28-year-old's primary emotion following his 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3 victory over Rafael Nadal in a dramatic Australian Open final.
Wawrinka had never considered himself a potential grand slam winner and said he would only know if it was all real when he woke up.
He was reunited with the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup at a photo shoot by the Yarra River before reflecting on events the morning after the night before.
"It still feels like a dream because it's a grand slam title so it's something that's just amazing for me," said Wawrinka, who had closed his press conference yesterday by saying: "There's a big chance I'll get drunk tonight".
"It's just good to wake up with that trophy," he added.
"I didn't get much sleep. I was with my team, some friends, family, we celebrated a little bit and enjoyed the moment. We came back late but that's a good problem to have."
When the rankings are updated later today, Wawrinka will climb from eight to three, behind only Nadal and Novak Djokovic and ahead of the likes of his much-vaunted Swiss countryman Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Wawrinka was the first man to beat both Nadal and Djokovic at the same grand slam and the first player to defeat the top two in the world since Sergi Bruguera at the French Open in 1993.
He served notice of what he might be able to achieve last season, nearly beating Djokovic in a dramatic match in Melbourne before losing another five-setter in his first slam semi-final at the US Open.
Consistent improvement has been Wawrinka's focus, and the breakthrough came once his confidence caught up with his talent.
"It's what I've been doing for many years," he said. "I've always worked in a good way to try to improve, and that means I'm always going to practise hard, try to play better, to find solutions.
"Why this year, why last year? It's just my time. I'm 28, I'm more mature, I understand better when I win or when I lose and why.
"Everything last year came with the self confidence and now I know that I can beat everybody on the big stage at a grand slam, it doesn't matter if it's the final, semi-final, quarter-final.
"That changed everything because when you have that confidence in yourself then you can win a grand slam."
The only disappointment for Wawrinka was that he beat an injured Nadal, with the world number one badly jarring his back in the second set.
Nadal had been looking to become the first man in the Open era to win each slam title at least twice.
The Spaniard said: "I'm obviously disappointed and very sad about what happened. But that's life, that's sport.
"I really had a lot of great moments in my career. This is a tough one. I'll just accept it and try to keep working hard for what's coming."