by Kevin Craig
Stan Wawrinka won his third major title on Sunday at the US Open as he defeated Novak Djokovic in four entertaining sets, 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
Wawrinka, who was match point down in his third round match against Dan Evans, has now won the 2014 Australian Open, the 2015 French Open, and the 2016 US Open and has equaled Andy Murray’s number of major titles at three. Wawrinka is now just one title at Wimbledon away from completing the career grand slam.
“I don’t know what’s happening right now,” said Wawrinka, who has now won his last 11 finals in a row, in his post-match on-court interview. “I’ve been practicing hard since many million years. My goal is to give everything I have to be the best player I can…that’s what happened tonight.”
The first set really set the tone for the duration of the match as the two great friends and warriors battled for an hour to see who could take the early lead. As Djokovic battled back from 40-15 to break Wawrinka in his first service game of the match, eventually taking a 3-0 lead, it looked like the Suisse had not come to play.
Djokovic, though, had referred to Wawrinka many times before the match as a big-match player, and that is exactly what the No. 3 seed proved to be as he was able to fight off three break points later in the set, two of which were set points, and broke the Serb when he served for the set, eventually forcing a tiebreak.
In that first set tiebreak, it was all Djokovic as he didn’t let the thought of him getting broken while serving for the set get to him. The No. 1 player in the world was able to breeze to a 7-1 win, putting himself within two sets of his 13th major title.
The second set saw Wawrinka, who hit 46 winners in the match, begin to settle down and start effectively playing his aggressive style of tennis, earning a break in the early stages for a 4-1 lead. Djokovic would be able to break the Suisse later in the set and got it back to 4-4, but when he served at 4-5, Wawrinka was able to assert himself in the match again and break to even up the match at one-set-all.
In a third set that lasted almost 80 minutes, Wawrinka fought off three break points in the opening game before breaking Djokovic for a 2-0 lead. He would save another break point in the next game to go up 3-0, but the pressure from Djokovic on Wawrinka’s serve finally paid off as he broke the Suisse on his sixth chance of the set to get back on serve.
It would remain that way as neither player saw a break point until Wawrinka did so in the 12th game. After Djokovic had missed out on a game point to force a third set tiebreak, he would proceed to lose the next two points, as well as his service game and the set, allowing Wawrinka to go up two sets to one.
Djokovic, who won just three of the 17 break points that he had in the match, began dealing with a toe injury early in the fourth set, allowing the No. 3 player in the world to race out to a 3-0 lead. After fighting off a break point to hold for 1-3, Djokovic took a medical timeout before Wawrinka went to serve, an action that did not please the Suisse.
The short break required for Djokovic’s toe injury almost got into Wawrinka’s head too much as he had to fight off three break points in the next game to hold for 4-1. From there, it was straightforward for Wawrinka as he would go on to hold in a deuce game to close out the match and the championship, earning himself his third major title.
“This is honestly amazing. I came here without expecting, without having the goal to win…There was so much emotion. This is something that I never had before,” said Wawrinka.
Wawrinka’s three major titles go along with his gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in doubles and his 2014 Davis Cup title, adding up to what has been a very decorated career for someone who had to perform in the shadow of one of the greatest players of all time for the majority of his career in Roger Federer.
The US Open title makes Wawrinka the only active player to have won multiple major titles after turning 30-years old.
Despite the disappointment for Djokovic, who is still having a stellar year slightly under the radar, which seems absurd to say, he remained humble in defeat.
“This has been absolutely deserved. You were the more courageous player in the decisive moments,” Djokovic said to Wawrinka. “He was the tougher player, he knew what to do.”
The praise from Djokovic did not go unnoticed by Wawrinka, who made sure to return the gesture.
“We know each other for many, many years. Because of you, I’m where I am today,” said Wawrinka to Djokovic, citing the No. 1 player in the world as his inspiration throughout the past few years.