The naysayers will be out. They always are when the underdog rises from the ashes to claim victory over the anointed one, or two, even three. That was the case this past fortnight in Flushing, NY as Switzerland’s number two star, Stanislas Wawrinka, the third seed, disposed of the world number one, Novak Djokovic in 4 gruelling sets Sunday night. Two and three, well that of course would be Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. In case you have been resting under a comfortable slab of concrete of late, we are in the golden era of men’s tennis to be sure. Three absolute legends that rate amongst the all time best players to ever lace up some Stan Smith’s and they have come in stunning succession, one after the other, after the other.
Wawrinka is King for a Day
What Wawrinka pulled off with his 3 and a half hour epic victory over Djokovic will truly one day be the stuff of lore. He is now undefeated in major event finals at 3-0 and almost ridiculously, has won the last 11 finals he has appeared in. He is of course, not an all time legend, capturing his first U.S Open title to go along with a French title last year and an Australian Open banner in 2014. But he has proven to be a big money player who rises to the occasion and seizes moments that only his countryman seemed to aspire to until the past three years. A late bloomer by all accounts, Wawrinka is only now reaching the apex of his tennis career at the ripe old age of 31. His four set win (6-7 (1) 6-4, 7-5, 6-3) was the penultimate finish to a streak player who peaked at the exact right time over the 2 weeks in the Big Apple.
Now getting back to those dreaded naysayers. If you saw the finals, we could all see that Djokovic was not of himself, at least physically speaking. As a matter of reference, he looked a tad out of sorts over the entire fortnight and benefitted from an almost embarrassing amount of player defaults and/or tanking to reach the semi finals with the overall court time of a woman player. Throw in an early exit from Nadal, the tireless and relentless Spaniard, and the no show of the injured Federer and you start to see where I am going with this. Then you have Andy Murray, the 29 year old Scotsmen, who, fresh off his third Grand slam championship just two short months ago on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, and his quarter final exit in a shocker to Kai Nishikori, and we can see the stars aligned almost dream like for Wawrinka.
There is an old sports saying, most likely from baseball, which refers to beating the team you are playing and doing that again and again. Wawrinka did exactly that and he did it seven times over a 13-day period to earn his first US Open title. He is as a deserving champion at Flushing as I can recall. Remember, it is not only the big three anymore now. The golden era of men’s tennis has ushered in a new derby of grade A quality champions as Wawrinka and Murray proved in this summer of surprises, that the big three have company on top, well deserved company and well earned.