Stan Wawrinka has long played second banana in Switzerland to Roger Federer.
And while one win won’t change their career legacies, Wawrinka is still alive at this U.S. Open, while Federer is long gone.
Playing the match of his life, No. 8 Wawrinka shocked defending champion and No. 3 Andy Murray to the tune of 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on a sunny and breezy Thursday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium to advance to his first-ever major semifinal.
In Saturday’s semifinals, Wawrinka, 28, will meet the winner between No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 21 Mikhail Youzhny. No. 2 Rafael Nadal will meet No. 8 Richard Gasquet in the other.
“I feel amazing for sure, especially here,” Wawrinka told the crowd after he smacked 45 winners against 37 unforced errors and played brilliantly at net, winning 31-of-42 points, often approaching off a well hit one-handed backhand or a crackling forehand.
“He’s the defending champion,” Wawrinka said. “He’s tough opponent but I’m really just happy. It was crazy match for me. To beat him in three sets is just amazing.”
This was Wawrkina’s seventh win this year over a Top 10 player, but none of them came on as grand a stage as this.
Asked if this was the biggest win of Wawrinka’s career, his coach, Magnus Norman, said: “Yes, absolutely. If you look at the stage, Grand Slam quarters, first time for him in the semis, so abolutely.”
It was a measure of Wawrinka’s dominance over the reigning U.S. Open, Wimbledon and Olympic champion that he never faced a break point all match.
“He played great,” Murray said. “He hit big shots. He passed extremely well. He hit a lot of lines on big points. He served well. That was it. He played a great match.”
If Wawrinka faces Djokovic in the semifinals, he can take confidence knowing that he pushed him to 12-10 in the fifth set in the fourth round at the Australian Open in January before losing to the eventual champion. Djokovic holds a 12-2 career edge on Wawrinka, but that match in Australia may have changed Wawrinka’s perception going forward.
“I think a lot of things clicked in Melbourne,” said Norman, who began working with Wawrinka in May. “He really felt like he was playing Top 3 in the world and he was still challenging him. And I think he took something positive out of that. And then he’s been building on that for the whole season.”
The match turned early when Wawrinka needed six set points before finally breaking Murray in the 10th game of the first set, when Murray sailed a forehand long.
“I thought he played great,” Murray said. “That was the hardest part of the match — 5-4 game in the first set was [an] important game. I had a chance to close it out; he had quite a few chances. I made a few mistakes.”
“To get the first set was much more better,” said Wawrinka. “I had confidence for the rest of the match.”
After breaking Murray once more in the second set and twice in the third, Wawrinka looked up at the scoreboard as he served for the match at 5-2 in the third and admitted to feeling the pressure.
“A little bit nervous for sure,” he said. “I was trying just to be focused on my game, trying to get focused on what I did for two hours … to be focused on the match and not let him come back.”
Murray didn’t come back and will be deprived of a potential semifinal against Djokovic, whom he beat in last year’s final and in the Wimbledon final.
“But, look, I can’t complain,” Murray said. “If someone told me before the U.S. Open last year I would have been here as defending champion having won Wimbledon and Olympic gold, I would have taken that 100 percent.
“So I’m disappointed, but, you know, the year as a whole has been a good one.”
Asked if Wawrinka had what it takes to contend for the title, Murray was cautious.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I know how hard they are to win. I have reached quite a few semis and finals before I did it. I don’t know the answer to that. You’ll find out in the next few days I guess.”
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for updates throughout the U.S. Open.