By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Third seed Stan Wawrinka rose to the occasion once again to beat top-seeded defending champion Novak Djokovic 6-7(1) 6-4 7-5 6-3 and win the U.S. Open on Sunday for the third grand slam title of his career.
The 31-year-old Swiss, who defeated Djokovic on his way to winning the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open, denied the world number one a third grand slam title this year following the Serb’s wins in Australia and France.
Wawrinka set up his championship point with an easy volley after sending a fatigued Djokovic deep into the backhand corner. A Djokovic backhand that sailed long ended the nearly four-hour slugfest at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“This is amazing,” Wawrinka said at the trophy ceremony. “I came here without the goal to win it, but every time I step on the court I tried my best to win every match.
“I think I played quite a lot of tennis these two weeks, I am completely empty. I had to bring everything I had today against Novak. It was so much emotion.”
It was another Flushing Meadows disappointment for Djokovic, who in seven trips to the U.S. Open final has twice won the title and finished runner-up five times.
“He is a great champion and deserves to win this title,” the Serb said in congratulating Wawrinka.
“We played almost four hours and we both felt it. We both felt the demanding match we played today physically but he came out on top. In the decisive moments he was a better player, he was tougher mentally, he knew what to do.”
It was a grueling, groundstroke battle that featured captivating rallies and brilliant shot-making from the familiar foes.
Wawrinka trailed Djokovic 19-4 in their career meetings, but the hard-working Swiss saves his best for the big matches and he came through again with a superlative performance that extended his remarkable streak to 11 straight wins in tournament finals.
As the match wore on, Wawrinka proved to be stronger and appeared to have Djokovic on the ropes early in the fourth set, the Serbian breathing heavily after some rallies and clutching at his leg in discomfort after being broken to trail 0-2.
Djokovic was granted a medical timeout after holding serve for 1-3.
The Serb, who had injury questions entering the slam and benefitted from an easy ride that included a walkover and two retirements, took off both shoes and had some toes taped in a six-minute break from the action.
The six-minute interruption did little to stem the victory charge by Wawrinka, who built his winning margin by being better on the most important points.
Wawrinka cashed in on six of 10 break point opportunities, and frustrated Djokovic by saving 14 of 17 break points against him.
The victory was worth $3.5 million for Wawrinka, who is only missing a Wimbledon victory to complete the coveted career grand slam.
He is a perfect three-for-three in grand slam finals.
(Additional reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Andrew Both)