US OPEN 2013
Djokovic Wins Wawrinka Epic For Final Berth; Remains At No. 1
New York, U.S.A.
by James Buddell|
The top-seeded Serbian defeated first-time major semi-finalist and ninth seed Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday for his 50th match win of the season. Djokovic improved to 13-2 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against the Swiss No. 2 after a four-hour and nine-minute victory.
He will now attempt to capture his seventh Grand Slam championship crown (6-5 overall) on Monday, when he will challenge second seed and 2010 titlist Rafael Nadal, his rival for year-end No. 1, for the title. Nadal leads fellow Barclays ATP World Tour Finals qualifier Djokovic 21-15.
Djokovic credited Wawrinka with playing better, more aggressive tennis for the majority of the match and is relieved to have survived. "In the end of the day, I managed to stay tough and play well when I needed to. That's something that definitely encourages me before the final."
"I just tried to hang on and fight and be mentally tough and believe all the way through I can actually win," Djokovic added. "And I sincerely believed that as the match progresses and longer it goes, I felt I have maybe that physical edge over him, and that I also, being in particularly these kind of matches and situations, playing on a big stage in semi-finals, maybe that experience could give me a little bit more of confidence on the court mentally."
If Wawrinka was nervous at the start of the match, he didn’t let it show. In blustery yet hot conditions, the confidence of the Swiss No. 2 soared when he broke Djokovic in the third and fifth games. Trailing 1-4, Djokovic had already committed 10 unforced errors.
Although the World No. 1 dug in and broke back, Wawrinka’s ability to strike forehand winners put pressure on Djokovic’s second serve. A double fault handed Wawrinka a 5-2 lead and minutes later, after three mis-timed groundstrokes from Djokovic, the 34-minute set had ended. It had been a stunning performance by Wawrinka.
Djokovic who had only lost one set in his five previous matches – to No. 21 seed Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals – changed his service tactics for the second set. By taking pace off his first serve, it forced Wawrinka to rally. But when he failed to capitalise on three break point opportunities in an 18-point fourth game, it proved costly as Wawrinka continued to hammer groundstroke winners and took a 4-2 lead.
The former champion was forced to play his best tennis. In targeting Wawrinka’s backhand and stepping inside the baseline on return of serve, Djokovic won three straight games and came within two points of winning the set 6-4. In the tie-break, which included a 27-stroke rally on the seventh point, Djokovic extracted unforced errors and clinched the 69-minute set with a crosscourt forehand pass.
After routine service holds through the first six games, the set lacked intensity. But in the space of 10 minutes, the momentum was firmly with Wawrinka. Surviving a test on serve at 3-3, the Swiss then capitalised on three errors by Djokovic to break to love for a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the set, he took a 30/0 lead only for Djokovic respond. At 30/30, Djokovic struck a backhand slice drop shot into the net, which ended a 35-stroke rally. Wawrinka kept calm and coolly hit an unreturned serve down the middle. In not rushing and being happy to rally from deep behind the baseline, Wawrinka had taken control.
Djokovic, now two sets from reaching his 12th major final, regrouped and prepared for an endurance battle. Wawrinka started to become irritated in the second game. Despite saving one break point at 15/40 with an ace, Wawrinka could not deny Djokovic, who kept control of his emotions as Wawrinka received a code violation racquet abuse, then a point penalty for snapping the frame, in the next game.
Djokovic matched his opponent’s groundstroke power and took a 4-1 lead. At the change of ends, Wawrinka took an off-court three-minute medical time-out. Djokovic maintained the advantage to level the sets score.
In a physically draining third game, which lasted 21 minutes and 12 deuce points, Wawrinka saved five break points before holding serve. It only highlighted his technical and mental improvements this year under the guidance of Magnus Norman, his coach and former World No. 2. Djokovic levelled at 2-2 in the space of two minutes. Wawrinka began to tire quickly, and although he recovered from 15/40, Djokovic was relentless in his pursuit of a crucial service break.
After a career-high seven Top 10 wins this year, including victories over Tomas Berdych and defending champion Andy Murray en route to the semi-finals, Wawrinka was unable to record his first win over a World No. 1. He is now 0-13 against the very best. Djokovic is now 20-7 lifetime in fifth sets according to the FedEx ATP Reliability Index.