By Laura Amato
It may be time for the “Big Four” to become the “Big Five.” Stan Wawrinka stunned the tennis-watching world on Sunday when he took down world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in the US Open men’s final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was the third major title for Wawrinka—who previously defeated Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French Open—and while it may not be an upset per se, the victory certainly opened some eyes.
Wawrinka is at the top of his game and, more importantly, the top of his sport, joining the likes of the “Big Four” – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Djokovic.
“I’m trying the best I can with my career,” Wawrinka said. “This is something I never expect and dream about it, but I have them and I’m happy to take the trophy back home.
Wawrinka has now won all three Grand Slam finals in which he’s played and, all three times, he took down the world’s top player.
It’s a statement of sort for the 31-year-old, the oldest US Open champ in more than 40 years.
“Today, before the final, I was really nervous like never before. I was shaking in the locker,” Wawrinka said. “But the only thing I was convinced with myself that my game was there. Put the fight on the court and you will have a chance to win.”
Djokovic started the match strong, winning the first set, but last year’s US Open champ has battled injuries throughout the summer and he faced his fair share of obstacles in the final.
He suffered cramping in the fourth set and was granted a medical timeout without a changeover. Djokovic, trailing 3-1 at the time, removed both shoes and then had his toes taped.
It was an unusual moment and, according to ATP World Tour rules, trainers can only be called on the court to treat “acute medical conditions.”
“I lost my nerves in the important moments. He kept his cool. I think that’s what decided the match,” said Djokovic, who added it was painful to move around the court. “Just if you lose your cool, the match can go away.”
Wawrinka complained to match officials, but was forced to funnel that frustration into his game. It worked.
Even before the break, Wawrinka was in control, breaking in the final game of the second and third sets and saving 14 of 17 break points he faced.
He was on his game. Djokovic was not.
In the end, that was the difference.
“I saw he was struggling physically,” Wawrinka said. “I knew also before the match that when I play against him I have to push the limit.”
Wawrinka has now won 11 tournament finals in a row, handing Djokovic his first loss in a US Open match in which he won the first set. At one point, Wawrinka hit a shot so hard it knocked the racket out of Djokovic’s hand.
While he’s not new to the scene, Wawrinka is, finally, coming into his own.
“In general, the only pressure that I feel in a Grand Slam is the pressure I put on myself,” Wawrinka said. “The more I win in a Grand Slam, the better I feel.”