At one point in their respective careers, Novak Djokovic had 14 straight victories over Stan Wawrinka, spanning from Vienna in 2007 to the World Tour Finals in 2013.
Since Djokovic’s straight sets victory at that latter event, it has been 3-4 to Novak, 3-1 in Grand Slams to Wawrinka and an impressive 2-0 in Grand Slam Finals in Stan’s favour.
As pointed out in my earlier article regarding the Swiss #1, the takeover of Magus Norman as head coach has a lot to do with this greatly improved record.
Touching again on that theme, the Swedish former world #2 and the current world #3 have worked together impeccably to come up with a specific game plan especially tailored for when playing the current world #1.
We’ll say it now; Stan Wawrinka is Novak Djokovic’s kryptonite. His latest victory over the Serb in the Final of this years’ US Open is further proof of that.
By his own admission, the 31-year-old was in tears of anxiety before his most recent Grand Slam Final triumph.
“Before the Final I was really nervous like never before. I was shaking in the locker room. But the only thing I was convinced with myself was that my game was there. Just put the fight on the court and you will have a chance to win”.
Those nerves shone through in the first, when he went down 5-2, but in a set that was almost a microcosm for the entire match, Wawrinka fought back, forcing a tiebreak that he would eventually lose.
However, Stan went on to take the next three sets 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, to lift the third Grand Slam crown of his career, leaving only The Championships as the unconquered mountain in his life.
Perhaps almost as shocking as The Mans’ first set turnaround was the tactics in which he used to climb back into the match, and eventually overwhelm a stunned Djokovic.
It is rare that Novak rarely has an answer for his opponents, but this was the occasion on this particular Sunday night at Flushing Meadows.
Whilst most tend to avoid his strengths like a bad neighborhood, Wawrinka drove right down Main Street, windows down and music blaring.
Stan kept Djoker on the defence almost the entire match – not a tactic usually employed against perhaps the greatest defender of all time.
Monikers meant for naught this match though - like a platoon taking heavy fire in the trenches, Wawrinka’s power was such that he often kept Djokovic camped well well beyond the baseline, unable to hit any kind of meaningful return.
Stan was playing this match on his terms, and his terms only, and if that meant boldly confronting Novak’s strength – his defence – then so be it. He grabbed the bull by the horns and soon had a hamburger.
Wawrinka and coach Norman had clearly also identified Djok’s faltering serve – consistently ranking in the top 10 on tour – as a weakness to be taken advantage of.
Not only did Stan convert 6 of his 10 break point opportunities during the match, but also saved 14 of his own 17.
Make no mistake – Djokovic is the best returner in the game, and Wawrinka stubbornly attempted to trespass on that fact.
Tracking back all the way to the locker room before the match had even begun, and the source of Stan’s uncharacteristic nerves suddenly becomes far clearer.
He was about to embark on a match in which he was going to attempt to swim against the world’s strongest rip, despite almost drowning in a lap pool a week earlier when down match point to unknown Englishman Daniel Evans.
In just under four hours, Wawrinka had fought the rip and won, and emerging the other side was a man who we now know can take on and beat the worlds best at his own game.
Will others now try to fight the rip as Stan did? Could Stan fight against it and win again? Definitely.