Stan Reigns In New York: How The US Open Final Was Won
Wawrinka improved to 3-0 in Grand Slam finals, adding to victories at the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 Roland Garros. The 31 year old became the fifth man in the Open Era to win multiple major singles crowns after turning 30, joining Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors.
Here is how the final unfolded...
SET ONE - Djokovic 7-6(1)
Warm and overcast conditions greeted Djokovic and Wawrinka on Sunday afternoon at Flushing Meadows, with the brutal humidity that plagued the tournament earlier in the week dropping significantly as the Serbian and the Swiss took to Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Wawrinka, who had won his past 10 tour-level finals, had his game plan. The World No. 3 hammered his backhand with aplomb in last year's Roland Garros final against Djokovic, breaking down the Serbian's defenses. With this year's US Open courts playing slower than usual, Wawrinka had more time to set up his penetrating groundstrokes, which generated more than double the winners (157-70) throughout the fortnight.
But Djokovic had other plans from the start. Much like he did against Kei Nishikori in the semis, Wawrinka started slow, and the two-time US Open champion took full advantage in the early proceedings.
The World No. 1 broke Wawrinka from 40/15 down in the Swiss' first service game and consolidated for a 3-0 lead. An outrageous point saw Djokovic deny a pair of forehand winners with his elastic defense from well behind the baseline. A lunging backhand stab landed smack on the far tramline and Wawrinka had no response.
Following a hold to love for 5-2, Djokovic looked to wrap up the set in efficient fashion, holding a pair of set points with Wawrinka serving at 5-3. But Wawrinka raised his game to match his counterpart, turning aside both chances and denying Djokovic's bid to serve out the set a game later. The Swiss would hold for 5-all, suddenly turning the tide with a run of 12 of 15 points.
The set would proceed to a tie-break, where both competitors provided arguably the point of the tournament, a 19-shot rally that saw them produce a stunning shotmaking display of precision, power and finesse. Wawrinka would win the point, but that would be all the Swiss could muster in the tie-break as Djokovic took it 7-1 after 58 minutes.
SET TWO - Wawrinka 6-4
With musicians Paul Simon and Tony Bennett, actor James Spader and fashion icon Anna Wintour in attendance on a star-studded early evening in New York, Djokovic looked to extend his lead.
The Belgrade native is 51-0 when winning the first set at the US Open, but after taking a physical opener, he let his guard down early in the second. The scintillating down-the-line backhand in the ad court, that earned Wawrinka the title at Roland Garros over Djokovic last year, produced a moment of magic to break for 3-1. Two Djokovic double faults hurt the Serbian's cause in that service game, and he would fail to capitalise on a 0/40 look at Wawrinka's serve immediately after.
Coach Magnus Norman has brought a surge of mental strength to Wawrinka's game in recent years and the Swiss exhibited that steely resolve during the second set. First, he refused to suffer a lapse of focus after dropping a tight opener. Then, he remained poised after conceding the break midway through the set.
The tide would turn in an instant. Serving up 4-2 30/30, Wawrinka decided not to make an attempt on a Djokovic regulation cross-court forehand that clipped the edge of the tramline. It would prove costly, as Djokovic would take his fourth break chance of the set in the next point and eventually draw level at 4-all.
But Wawrinka stayed the course, holding to love for 5-4 and converting his second set point as an off-balance Djokovic pulled a forehand wide at 30/40 in the next game. The Swiss would fire seven winners in the second set, benefiting from 14 Djokovic unforced errors. One set apiece, with a critical third stanza on the way.
SET THREE - Wawrinka 7-5
Wawrinka wrestled momentum from Djokovic immediately as the third set got underway. It was a quick shift that rattled the Serbian's game, as the two-time champion began to leak unforced errors at inopportune moments.
Djokovic took a less-disciplined approach when facing break point in the second game. The first serve and volley attempt of the match saw the 29 year old roll a first serve into the box, as an aggressive Wawrinka launched his 6'0", 179 lb. frame into the return. Djokovic would net the ensuing volley and Wawrinka seized command.
A blistering backhand pass gave Wawrinka the hold for 3-0 and he would press for another break in the next game with a 0/30 peak at Djokovic's serve.
With both players breathing heavily, yet moving crisply, the court position battle would prove to be even more critical for Wawrinka as the match wore on. Momentary stretches of passive play plagued the Swiss in the first set, but he refused to retreat behind the baseline as the match wore on.
Djokovic would break back and consolidate for 3-all and looked to swing momentum to his side of the net with another break in a lengthy game at 4-all. But Wawrinka emphatically screamed "one more serve" after the third deuce and earned a crucial hold to remain level, sprinting back to his chair on the changeover.
The self talk - and self-belief - kept the Swiss in it and with Djokovic serving to force a tie-break at 6-5, he would claw back from 30/0 down to break and take a two-sets-to-one lead.
SET FOUR - Wawrinka 6-3
In the third set, Wawrinka employed more variety off the ground, often taking pace off his shots. Djokovic thrives when the Swiss injects significant speed into his groundstrokes, but has struggled with his footwork and timing when Wawrinka refuses to oblige. The Lausanne native did exactly that in breaking for the set and carried the momentum into the fourth.
Djokovic is known for outlasting opponents with his superior conditioning, pulling away late in matches and striking the knockout blow physically. But that exact point of pride would let the Serbian down when it mattered most.
A hobbled Djokovic started limping early in the fourth, as Wawrinka reeled off three straight games to open the set. Djokovic, who also appeared to be cramping, took a six-minute medical timeout to treat the big toe on his right foot.
But the momentary stoppage of play did not deter Wawrinka, even when facing three break points that would have brought them back on serve. In total, Djokovic had failed to convert 14 of 17 break points.
Djokovic took another medical timeout for his bleeding toe on the change of ends, but it only delayed the inevitable. Wawrinka put away a volley to give him his second championship point and the Swiss would claim the title as a Djokovic backhand sailed long. Stan Wawrinka is the 2016 US Open champion.