The world No.3, Stan Wawrinka, put on a show of endurance and doggedness on Sunday to win the 2016 US Open by beating World No.1, Novak Djokovic, in four sets 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. He won the match in a little under four hours to claim his third Grand Slam title.
Djokovic had not played his best at Flushing Meadows and had three of his opponents retire with injury. He was badly undercooked for the physical stress while Wawrinka had had to battle in the semis against Kei Nishikori.
Wawrinka also had a dismal head-to-head record against Djokovic – 4-19. But having spent over nine hours more on court, he put that enhanced stamina to use to collect his third Grand Slam at 31-years-old.
When Djokovic called for his two medical time-outs, Wawrinka must have thought, ‘Here we go again’. This had happened in the Australian Open final against Nadal in 2014, but the victor is known for a quiet but steely resolve.
Wawrinka ’s renowned back-hand failed him in the first set he lost 7-6. He won five straight games to take a 4-1 lead in the second, but even though Djokovic rallied a bit, he took it 6-4. Wawrinka fired 46 winners, including three aces, but more impressive was that he was able to save 14 of 17 break points.
Afterward, at the trophy presentation, the ‘lesser Swiss [after Roger Federer] paid tribute to those that died in 9/11 and also paid a high accolade to Djokovic.
“You are a great champion and great person and it is because of you that I am who I am today.”
In reply, Djokovic praised Wawrinka’s resolve.
“Stan was the more courageous player in the decisive moments and he deserved to win this title.”
He added, “It was still a fantastic couple of weeks for me. I didn’t know if I was coming here. If someone had told me I was going to make the final I would have taken it.”
Wawrinka also revealed why he has won all three Grand Slam finals he has qualified for.
”There is no secret. If you want to beat the No. 1 player in the world, you have to give everything.
“You have to accept to suffer and you have almost to enjoy to suffer. Because I think this Grand Slam was the most painful, physically and mentally that I ever played.”
Stanislas Wawrinka, who has ‘Stan the Man’ as his moniker is now surely the man because in winning all the Grand Slam finals he has qualified for he has had to beat the No.1 on the three occasions – Rafael Nadal for the 2014 Australian Open; Djokovic in the 2015 French Open and again Djokovic in New York.
The victory was also more remarkable because he came from being a set down to win in four sets; for Djokovic held a record of 51-0 in matches in which he had won the first set.