The great Roger Federer was a high-profile absentee from Flushing Meadows, but Switzerland still managed to salute in the 2016 US Open via Stan Wawrinka’s four-set triumph over world No.1 Novak Djokovic in a classic final.
The dogged Wawrinka overcame the loss of a first-set tiebreak to prevail 6-7 6-4 7-5 6-3, clinching his third grand slam title – and his first US Open crown.
Djokovic battled bravely until the end, requiring attention for painful blisters but still causing Wawrinka some nervous moments after the third seed had led the fourth set 5-1.
— Getty Images Sport (@GettySport) September 12, 2016
The victory continues a remarkable run for the 31-year-old, who has now won 11 consecutive tournament finals, while it also improved his record in major finals to 3-0, enhancing his reputation as a big-match player.
Djokovic powered through the first-set tiebreaker 7-1 – making up for wasting two set points while leading 5-2 – while Wawrinka held his nerve in similar fashion in the second set, watching his 4-1 lead evaporate to 4-all before closing it out by breaking the defending champ.
Wawrinka raced out to a 3-0 lead in the third but again Djokovic pulled back to level. However, the Swiss broke the Serb again in the 12th game to take a two-sets-to-one advantage.
A hobbled Djokovic showed remarkable fortitude to fight back in the fourth, but ultimately ran out of steam.
An emotional Wawrinka began his post-match speech by paying tribute to long-time rival and training partner Djokovic, who had won 19 of their previous 23 encounters.
— Tennis Express (@TennisExpress) September 12, 2016
“You’re a great champion, a great person. Because of you I am where I am today, so I would like to congratulate you for everything you’ve done,” Wawrinka said.
“This is amazing. I came here without expecting, without a goal to win it. But every time I stepped on the court I was trying to win every match.”
Wawrinka did it the hard way, following up his five-setter against Britain’s Daniel Evans in the third round with four consecutive four-set matches, downing Illya Marchenko, Juan Martin del Potro, Kei Nishikori and now Djokovic in lenghty showdowns.
“I think I played quite a lot of tennis these two weeks, I’m completely empty. I had to bring everything I had today against Novak,” he continued.
“Again there was so much emotion, with the crowd, with the atmosphere, with the stadium.
“This is something I never had before, so thank you so much. It’s been an amazing night again.”
This success continues an incredible three years for the late-blooming Wawrinka, whose surge up the men’s tennis ranks has been largely accredited to coming under the tutelage of coach Magnus Norman in 2013.
At the age of 28 he qualified for his first grand slam semi at the 2013 US Open – going down to Djokovic in a five-set epic – before claiming a watershed triumph over Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, upsetting Djokovic in the quarters along the way.
A four-set final win over Djokovic netted Wawrinka a second major title at the 2015 French Open, and after semi-final losses to Federer at the 2015 US Open and Andy Murray in his French Open title defence earlier this year, he now boasts three-quarters of a career slam.