Crunch time: Stan Wawrinka ready to bring his best in US Open final against Novak Djokovic
The 31-year-old has ridden a wave to the decider at Flushing Meadows and is aiming to win his third major
Just like Karolina Pliskova, who lost to Angelique Kerber in the women’s final, Stan Wawrinka was one point away from exiting the US Open long before championship weekend.
Again, like Pliskova, Wawrinka used his versatile survival skills to wiggle out of the predicament and fought off match point by forcing the issue.
It was the middle weekend of the tournament and Wawrinka faced match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker against the lightly regarded Dan Evans of Britain.
Wawrinka got to the net and erased the match point with a forehand volley.
That’s how fine a line it is in professional tennis.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 10, 2016
Wawrinka, 31, could have been on a beach somewhere this weekend, lamenting the third-round loss. Instead he will face defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the men’s singles final on Monday morning (Hong Kong time).
Wawrinka, seeded third, is aiming for his third grand slam singles championship and Djokovic is attempting to win No 13, which would break a tie with Roy Emerson for fourth all time.
“The secret is simple,” Wawrinka said.
“I have to play my best tennis, my best game. He’s the No 1 player, amazing fighter. But I have enough confidence in myself that when I play my best tennis I can beat him.
“Hopefully I can bring that. But it’s the biggest challenge. When you play Novak, the No 1 player in the final of a grand slam, it’s the biggest challenge you can have.”
Wawrinka is exceedingly dangerous when he reaches the final. He is 10-0 in tournament finals since 2014.
Said Djokovic: “He is a big-match player. He loves to play in the big stage against big players because that’s when he elevates his level of performance in his game. Just gets much better.”
This will be Djokovic’s seventh US Open final – he’s won twice – and he holds a 19-4 career record against Wawrinka.
Wawrinka beat him to win the French Open in 2015 and they had an epic battle at the Australian Open in 2013 with Djokovic winning 12-10 in the fifth set.
There have been occasional interlopers among the big four of men’s tennis: Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
Since the 2005 French Open, they’ve been responsible for 42 of 46 grand slam tournament titles.
By winning two slams and a shot at a third major, Wawrinka is on the verge of transforming from a mere interloper to fifth member of the band.
He was once firmly fixed in the shadow of his Swiss countryman, Federer.
Of course, who hasn’t been in Federer’s shadow at one time?
“He’s a very powerful, powerful player,” Djokovic said of Wawrinka.
“Big serve. Probably the best, most effective one-handed backhand in the world now. You know, he can play it all. He has that variety in his game. He can be very dangerous for everybody.”