This tournament, which Nadal won in 2009 against Federer, will not be listed often among his career highlights. Twice (2006 and 2013), he had to miss the Australian Open because of injury, and three times (2010, 2011 and this year) injury has led to defeat, circumstances that once again drew an emotional response.
"Yeah, [this] is a tournament that I really had some troubles physically in my career and is something that is painful for me," Nadal said. "But that's part of life. That's part of sport. [It] is not the end of the world. [It] is just another tough moment. [It] is not the first."
Lost with the match was also Nadal's pursuit of becoming the first man in the Open era, and only third in history, to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice. He was also bidding to equal Pete Sampras with 14 career Grand Slam titles, which would have made him the youngest to do so.
But Nadal is universally liked because of moments like this, when, in the raw pain of defeat Sunday night, he was still able to articulate and reconcile his feelings in both his native Spanish and English.
"I feel very lucky that I was able to enjoy much more happy moments than tough moments," he said. "At the end is a sport of victories. People remember the victories. They don't remember the losses.
"For me, [it] is a tough one tonight because I felt I was ready to compete well. But in a few weeks that's going to pass. I'm going to keep playing, going to keep training hard, and I'm going to keep enjoying the world of tennis.
"I feel very lucky to be able to work in something that I really love to do. Not everybody's able to do that. Nothing wrong. Just bad day, tough day. But [a] lot of people in the world have a lot of very tough days."
Wawrinka came into the match having never taken a set off Nadal in 12 previous matches between the two. But he came into this final seemingly unaware of that stat, winning all 11 points off his first serve, 10-of-18 second serves and 5-of-6 of Nadal's second serves.
Wawrinka had 12 winners to six by Nadal, breaking to go up 3-1 in the opening set and dictating points with clean shots off both sides. But Nadal's below-average reaction time was easier to understand afterward, when he admitted he was bothered by his back in the first set.
After Nadal finally left the court and took a six-and-a-half-minute timeout following the third game of the second set, Wawrinka seemed unnerved, complaining to the chair umpire and then to the tournament referee that he should be told why Nadal left the court.
Nadal said in a fog of pain and worry that he remembers only that the physiotherapist was trying to relax his back.
"[The] last thing I wanted to do was retirement," he said. "No, I hate to do that, especially in a final. Same time, [it] is tough to see yourself, the whole year you are working for a moment like this, and the moment arrives and you feel you are not able to play at your best.
"So [it] was not an easy situation for me to be on court like this, but I tried hard until the end, trying to finish the match as good as I can for the crowd, for the opponent, for me. So that's what I did -- tried everything until the last moment, but [it] was impossible to win this way. Opponent is too good."
With Nadal unable to reach 80 mph on his serve for the first several service games after the timeout, Wawrinka nonetheless struggled with his timing. But with Nadal barely able to move, the Swiss easily closed out the second set.