Wawrinka Wins 2016 US Open

Congrats to Stan the man on a well-deserved first US Open title. He was too good for Djokovic on the day and showed that the 2015 French Open final was no fluke. This is his third slam title and he only needs Wimbledon now to complete the career slam.

Quite an interesting development after Murray looked to be the one who is making a move. All of a sudden Stan has equaled him on slam titles and is now closer to the career slam than him. Not exactly the best moment for Murray fans but a very good one for Wawrinka fans.

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You gotta hand it to Stan. The guy defeated Del Potro, Nishikori, and Djokovic consecutively all in four sets to win the title and all these guys were playing great tennis. When he is on his game he is simply unplayable.

Admittedly, that doesn’t seem to happen very often but he may be getting more consistent over time. I wouldn’t put winning Wimbledon beyond him either. He has now made the adjustment to faster surfaces and Wimbledon may be the next step.

  • The Match

So like I said, Stan was simply too good on the day and clearly the best player at this US Open. And his tennis in the final was devastating. Djokovic didn’t play badly aside from a poor first serve percentage(51%) and break point conversion rate(3/17).

I saw from the beginning that he was missing too many first serves. Against Stan, where Djokovic was winning fewer of the points the longer the rallies became it was important for him to make a lot of first serves.

Stan has too much power for Djokovic from the baseline and Djokovic needed to shorten the points and not allow Stan to settle into a rhythm from the baseline. Djokovic could have approached the net more too where he was 24/31.

I thought he did great by winning the first set 7-1 on the breaker after losing the early break in the set but Stan hit back quickly to win the second set. In the third set, Djokovic did well to come back from a break again but then serving at 5-6 was the game where he lost the match.

He needed to at least force the tiebreak there but he lost the game from 30-15 up. But again, Stan hit a winner that painted the line on the next point as he had done on so many other points. There is only so much you can do against hitting like that.

I kept thinking it can’t go on and waited for him to have one lapse but it never happened. He just kept pounding winner after winner with pinpoint accuracy and power. Just nothing you can do which is why as a Djokovic fan I don’t even feel bad about this loss.

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This is the third time Stan has gone on a run like this in a slam and when he does no one can stop him, not even Djokovic. You just have to tip your hat and say too good. Djokovic didn’t quit after the third set though which was admirable.

He had to take two medical timeouts with a bleeding toe but kept battling to the bitter end. He left it all out there on the court and there were no regrets afterward. As a fan you can’t ask for more and if you do you are very hard to please.

Djokovic took the loss very well as always. There were no entitlement issues and he was gracious in defeat. Djokovic has a huge heart which is why I am such a big fan. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself or regret because that is impossible to do if you give it your all.

  • How Does This Outcome Affect Djokovic’s Year?

Like I said in my preview post, I wasn’t going to be too bothered if Djokovic doesn’t win the title. Djokovic himself said at the prizegiving ceremony that he was doubting whether he would play the US Open a few days before the event and that if someone told him he’d make the final he would have taken it any day.

The big one this year was always going to be the French Open. After chalking up the best season in tennis history in 2015 there was still a big gap in his resume that stuck out like a sore thumb and that was, of course, the French Open.

It was a cursed slam for him so to put that to bed this year was a huge deal for him which helped him to enter the GOAT debate. It was also a big bonus that he won the personal slam, something which hasn’t received enough attention in the mainstream media.

People were talking about the calendar slam for Djokovic this year and although I’m usually very reluctant to buy into such talk I actually thought for a while that was possible for him. But in hindsight, I should have known better.

It’s easy to become overly excited. No one had won four consecutive slams since Laver in 1969 so for Djokovic to have achieved that was already an astonishing achievement. In doing so he set himself apart from the two modern greats Federer and Nadal.

He was under immense pressure to win the French Open and he did so in clinical fashion despite more rain and scheduling issues. It’s easy to become greedy as a fan but that should have been enough for the year while anything else would be a bonus.

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Moreover, with all the tennis Djokovic had played since the beginning of 2015, it was starting to take its toll on his body. Even after losing early at Wimbledon and the Olympics and not playing Cincinnati, he still was in doubt for the US Open.

I think he may have had more injury problems during the US Open that we were not aware of. He served a lot of double faults during the tournament and his first serve percentage was low in the final.

He already had shoulder problems at Wimbledon I think and I don’t think it has properly recovered yet. Then there was the wrist before the US Open as well. Taking all of this into account, you have to be happy with a US Open final.

Stan was too good on the day but Djokovic clearly is not completely recovered from the beating his body took over the last 21 months or so. But especially with the quarterfinal exit of Murray, this was another great result for Djokovic.

His body will get more time to recover now so that it will be ready for the indoor season where he is usually very good and where he can end another amazing year on a high.

  • How Does This Outcome Affect the Men’s Game?

The fact that Stan won the title is another interesting development in the men’s game. Is there now a big five instead of a big four? Is there only a big three with the decline of Federer and Nadal? Or is there still only one man at the top named Djokovic?

I think it is probably a combination of all of these. Clearly, Federer and Nadal have declined while Murray and Stan have stepped up their games this year. The current situation is as follows:

  • Tier 1: Djokovic
  • Tier 2: Murray and Stan
  • Tier 3: Federer and Nadal

You could argue that Nishikori is currently playing better tennis than Federer or Nadal but the first two tiers are clear I think. The proponents of the ‘weak era’ also need to come up with a new angle with Stan and Murray making big moves this year.

Then you have dangerous players like Nishikori and Del Potro and youngsters like Thiem and Pouille coming up, as well as the old guard Federer and Nadal who has won 31 slams between them and who you can’t completely write off for winning another slam either.

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There is plenty of depth in the men’s game. Stan is also showing that peaking and winning slams post 30 is becoming more and more of a reality. Djokovic will take inspiration from that because he is not 30 yet which gives him several more years to win slams.

Another three slam title year would have been nice but the personal slam was better. I think things are nicely poised at the top of the men’s game now. You have Djokovic still as the top dog but with Stan and Murray as serious rivals.

If he is going to beat Federer’s slam record he needs to win an average of two slams per year over the next three years. It is certainly doable but the future of tennis is very unpredictable so who knows.

Certainly, Stan and Murray can win more slams in the coming years and so can Nishikori, Del Potro(if he stays healthy), Raonic, Thiem(at the French), and perhaps even a young guy like Pouille.

Interesting times ahead.

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Posted in Grand Slams, US Open.

20 Comments

  1. Hey Ru-an. Hope you’re well. Have you heard about the Djokovic documentary series that just got set up? It’s with a super top notch high quality creative team and will be filming him on tour and at home for all of 2017. I’m sure it will be extraordinary for us fans, just hope it doesn’t distract him too much.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey Eric, hope you are well too. I did hear about it but no details so I just learned more from you. That is very interesting and the first of its kind. I doubt it will distract him if he gave it the go ahead. He is unbelievably determined and driven. But yeah it will be a big treat for we the fans!

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    Eric Reply:

    Here’s an article from an entertainment newspaper which gives some details and info on the team involved. They are top notch so it should be extremely well done.
    http://variety.com/2016/digital/news/novak-djokovic-amazon-documentary-1201855944/

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks, Eric 👍

    [Reply]

  2. This win of Wawrinka sure changes a lot.

    If Djokovic plays the best tennis ever seen, Wawrinka sure knows how to completely obliterate it. In both Slam finals, Djokovic won the first set just to lose the following three. This time, there is just no excuse whatsoever. Djokovic barely had to play any matches prior to the final (8 hours, 58 minutes and only 13 completed sets). Wawrinka, on the other hand, played 17 hours, 54 minutes. Djokovic himself was playing really well, but it seems that his best is just not as good as Stanimal mode (not talking about this match only). As you mentioned yourself, Stan rarely appears to have the “Stanimal mode” on. When it’s on, though, you’re doomed.

    Second, Djokovic has a 12-9 record in Slam finals. That is kind of lousy for a guy of his stature, especially when he is in his prime. He is considered to be a mental giant, but numbers don’t tell that story. Next to four defeats to Nadal he also has lost two against Wawrinka. Federer lost his last three Slam finals (age: 32-34) and even he still has a 17-10 record in Slam finals. It seems that Nadal’s and Sampras’s records are safe for a long time. They rarely lose/lost in Slam finals.

    Third, I guess Wawrinka is better than Murray? Murray did make it to 8 more Slam finals than Wawrinka, but they both won three and there lies the difference. Wawrinka has won three different Slams and Murray just two.

    More importantly, Stan now has won 11 finals he last played in. Winning three out of three Slam finals sure shows us he is a big-match player. All his Slam finals were won against a GOAT contender and the World no.1 at the time.

    Last, if Wawrinka can blast Djokovic off the court, you can really question why Federer can only make so many unforced errors and moronic mistakes when it really matters. I really don’t get it. Federer is at least as good as Wawrinka, but nowadays not so much when it really really matters?

    I hope Wawrinka wins the WTF to further improve his resume and he might go in the history books as one of the ATGs. If he can win Wimbledon, he’ll definitely be considered an ATG. Who would have thought that at the end of 2013?

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Tennis is a funny game, isn’t it? 😉

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  3. Hello Ru-an, how are you?
    Yes, the USO 16 was a great roller coaster, wasn’t it? Nole went from uncertain as if he was going to be able to play, from playing, struggling, being pushed forward by other’s misfortunes and finally getting to the final. The fact that he made the final in the first place is a clear testament to how good Nole really is.
    He fought bravely but it wasn’t to be. Stan is 3 from 3. He clearly turns the heat up when he makes a slam final. He is yet to lose one when he gets there. His level may not have been unbelievable but it was better than Nole’s and it was enough in the end.
    As an avid Nole fan I’m not too unhappy with this loss, like you, I can appreciate how good Stan was and he is the deserving champion of this one. But Nole said you can learn more from a loss than a victory. Okay, then he didn’t seem to learn an awful lot from RG 15 as it seems he approached this match the same way he did that one and the result was no different. Stan was smacking winners left, right and center and Nole was unable to punch his way out of that. His serves were not, at times, challenging enough and Stan was unmoved. Yes he managed to put a lot of pressure on Stan’s serves himself, but he seemed unable to make much of his opportunities. His break points ratio was almost as bad as Fed’s in their final in NY last year. Maybe Nole was struggling physically more than he let us believe, or maybe like we have already agreed, Stan was just better. Whatever it may be, the final was an entertaining affair and the guys (both of them) played their heart out.
    Congrats to Stan, and to Nole, time to move on and regroup.
    Bring on the Asian swing. :-)

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I’m fine, thanks, Marta how about you? I’m gonna have to disagree with you that his level ‘may not have been unbelievable’. At least it the final I think it certainly was. As far as learning from the FO loss goes yes he may have had physical problems on the serve but you also have to appreciate how well Stan played.

    Nole knew he had to go for more from the ground and that also caused him to make more unforced errors than usual. It’s a game of small margins and who knows if Nole didn’t drop serve at 5-6 in the 3rd or if he was physically in better shape things could have turned out differently.

    I just felt Stan was an unstoppable force in the final and in that case you just have to say too good and not analyze too much. It doesn’t get you very far.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    One more thing and that is that tennis is a game of matchups. Djokovic leads Stan 19-5 in the h2h now but Stan is proving to be a problem opponent for him of late. He simply has too much firepower for Nole from the baseline and has exposed a weakness in Nole’s game if you can call it that. But it is hard to call it that because in that mode he hits everyone off the court. I mean he did the same to Del Potro and Del Potro has monster groundstrokes himself.

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    Marta Philip Reply:

    I’m very well Ru-an, thanks.
    I do not disagree with you in any of these points. Yes, we have already established that Stan was the better player and I have no problems with that. But Nole’s inability to make more of his break point opportunities is a worry. You could tell Stan took his chances when he had break points in his favor, but Nole was making uncharacteristic UE when returning Stan’s serves under the same circumstances, especially second serves. He was more “cautions” rather than trying to rip winners. I don’t know, maybe the TV angle doesn’t give you the right proportion of power, speed etc, but Nole just seemed a bit more “tamed” when he should have found some animal instinct of his own. ;-)
    Either way, it was a great match and despite Nole’s loss I enjoyed it.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Glad to hear 👍 I think Nole is burned out mentally and physically to a certain extent after the most dominant run in history since the beginning of 2015. So I am not surprised if he has injury problems or lacks some animal instinct. Let’s give him a break and just appreciate everything he has given us so far. He will be back stronger I’m sure.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah, I think Nole has been burned out since the French and making the USO final was another great result. From the beginning of 2015, everything was building up towards the 2016 French Open. It’s only normal to be burned out after winning the personal slam. It hasn’t been done in the modern era. I plan on writing another post about it anyway.

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  4. Hi Ru-an, it’s been a while. A great summary to wrap up a very entertaining final. While I expected doko to win it, the stanimal brute force his way through. 11 finals in a row. 3 against Novak. That speak volumes.

    I haven’t been commenting as much as nole was dominating so much (we discussed that it could get boring) and Nadull losing is now not that big a deal these days. As for Fed, I’m still a fan, but his chances of winning big titles are dwinfdling with each year. Just a bonus to see him on the courts these days.

    But tennis is a funny game. This win by wawa again makes things interesting. Murray was supposed to be the main mover but…

    I like your 3 tier description. Very apt. Nole is still the prime player. Buy a hungry pack awaits below. Keep up the good writing.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey, Ben Chia! Thanks and no worries about not commenting as much although I do miss your straight talk and sense of humor. Nole’s domination got boring to me even after the FO so I was glad that he had a bit of a break. I guess me and him are on a similar wavelength as far as that is concerned. Both burned out! Ha.

    I will never get tired of Nadull losing. It’s not what it used to be but the loss to Pouille at the USO was another treat. And having Fed back in the mix next year should make things interestng as well. When you are #1 there will always be a hungry pack waiting. Nole just have to find a way to keep them at bay which he has done very well so far.

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  5. I personally feel that Djokovic is still head and shoulders above the rest of the tour. Federer and Nadal are great and playing well.But, the sheer number of matches that Djokovic has played against them, has helped him solve them pretty comprehensively. Federer has had little success against him in the best-of-five format (Even in best-of-three, barring a few instances, he has almost always lost the ones that count since 2011 – Masters 1000 and the tour finals) and since that French open final in 2014, Nadal has been completely outplayed regardless of the format.

    With Stan, it doesn’t really matter who the opponent is. If he is on song, then containing him is a huge task. It was clear that Djokovic was struggling physically after the 2nd set. If a few breakpoints had gone his way, things could have been different. Stan might still have pulled out the win, but a few points can really change the face of a match…

    A lot of news has focused on the fact that Djokovic was well rested because of pull-out/injury retirements. What these articles fail to take into account is the cumulative matches played over a season. Stan spent more hours on court during the US open. But, his season has been pretty ordinary relative to Djokovic’s, who, up until Wimbledon, won almost everything in sight or made the finals. Add to that the effect of 2015, as pointed out in the post, when he kept winning all year long, the strain had to eventually catch up…

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Great comment, Siddarth. You put it all well into perspective!

    [Reply]

  6. What do you think about Djokovic’s medical timeouts? The media and the commentators sure made a big deal out of it. I don’t understand really, his toes were obviously bleeding at one point.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah if your toe is bleeding it’s pretty serious I would think. The media and the commentators are not in Djokovic’s skin so they won’t know the extent of the problem.

    [Reply]

  7. Thanks for the nice write-up, I was eager to read it upon returning from Greece where I had to watch the match in splices on my phone

    I clicked “other” in the poll. I think it’s Djoker, Murray, and the rest.

    For one, I think the Big 4 is frozen in time and debates about adjusting that don’t add much of substance or interest. Federer is 200 years old and while his presence on tour adds lots of intrigue and crowd pleasing beauty, it’s not reasonable to consider him a major slam threat anymore in my opinion. Rafa is only 187 years old physically, and fairly young literally, but he has too much to prove to get back in that discussion. Really, it was those 4, who for the decade or so utterly dominated the game. Also, despite my intense distaste for Murray, I do think he belongs. Yes, he was clearly the low man, but when talking about the domination of the game over the period of the big 4, he was a big part of it, especially when considering slam finals made (even if not won), and Masters tournaments.

    As for now, Djoker is the best and Murray represents an actual season-long rival (or so it seems since summer). I can’t put Stan in this group. It’s odd to say that, given he has won a slam three straight years and faced stiff competition each time. It’s a consistency issue for me. Nole had a historic 2015 and phenomenal 2016. Murray had a great 2016. Stan hasn’t had a truly great year. One masters title since he emerged as a slam champ if I’m not mistaken. Many early slam exits. When he peaks he might be the best on tour, and obviously that has been happening at some point (and in the right tournaments) in recent years. But until or unless he is a perennial late rounder in slams, and collects some masters tournaments such that it’s not the Big 4 (now Big 2) winning 97 percent of them, Stan is a different type of champion in my eyes. Not to diminish him – he is a magnificent champion, and I agree there is great beauty in both his recent slam wins over Nole

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    You’re welcome! I chuckled at ‘Rafa is only 187 years old physically’. All that pushing and grinding sure took its toll!

    Interesting comment anyway. You make a good point about Stan’s consistency. Murray has been much more consistent overall. Stan may be the best on tour at his peak but the price he pays is a severe lack of consistency. Only one Masters title reveals a lot. That said, I would take his tennis over Murray’s tennis any day. It is quite a beautiful sight to watch him pummel the tennis ball while watching paint dry is more interesting than watching Murray at times.

    [Reply]

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