Stan Wawrinka didn't come to the Roland Garros final armed with a Swiss Army knife. He came with his backhand. And that was more than enough.
Who knew a Swiss could be so stubborn?
Of course, maybe if we'd just looked at his forearm. It was all right on there.
Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals, Wawrinka saved sixteen of seventeen break point chances, and he saved eight of ten today against Djokovic, the game's best returner of serve. There's something to be said for the will involved in weathering so many storms on such a big stage, especially with the crowd pulling for the Frenchman and the Serb playing for all the history within his grasp in the final.
Riding a 28-match winning streak, Djokovic was looking to complete a Career Grand Slam by adding a win in Paris to claim the only slam title that has so far eluded him. In past years, it was Rafa Nadal (six times, twice in finals the last three years) that brought an end to the current world #1's dream. But last week Nadal (seeded #6 after missing time with injury and having a mediocre clay season) was conquered by Djokovic in the QF as he completed as thorough a win as you'll ever see of an all-time great on the stage that he's dominated his entire career. The Serb not only defeated Rafa on the scoreboard, he seemed to take away a bit of his heart for safe keeping down the stretch, as well. Maybe it was too early to peak, though? Djokovic struggled to put away Andy Murray a round later, a match that had to be extended over two days and to five sets when the Scott won back-to-back 7-5 sets to knot the match. As a result, Djokovic never got a day off in the closing stages of this Roland Garros.
Early on, though, nothing seemed to bother him, including Wawrinka. Djokovic took a break lead in the 1st set when Wawrinka double-faulted on break point to fall behind 4-3. It took the Serb three set points to serve things out three games later, but he did to win the set 6-4. In the 2nd, he held back the tide of the Swiss man's powerful groundstrokes -- especially a one-handed backhand that was unleashing thunderous shots all match long -- to keep a nose ahead. He saved four BP over three straight service games as the set remained on serve at 4-4, but with Wawrinka serving first the Serb had to hold in order to keep the set knotted. He had no margin of error. On his fifth BP of the set, Wawrinka converted when Djokovic ended a rally by firing a shot long and suddenly the MATCH was tied.
Wawrinka broke to take a 4-2 lead in the 3rd, saved a BP a game later and then served out at 6-3 set to take a one set advantage into the 4th. Djokovic jumped up a break at 3-0 there, but couldn't hold the lead. Wawrinka won three straight games to get to 3-3, then held double break points on the Serb in game #7. After saving the second BP with a beautiful backhand volley winner, Djokovic punched the sky, showing the emotion that had been curiously missing from him during the first three and a half sets. If the Serb's old fire had returned, Wawrinka was likely doomed. But it didn't, and he wasn't.
Djokovic had three BP on Wawrinka's serve a game later, but couldn't convert any. The old "Comeback King" Novak would have. On the third BP, Wawrinka's serve up the T was called out, but Djokovic played the ball and was unable to return it. The chair umpire checked the mark and called the ball in, awarding the point to Wawrinka, who'd go on to hold for 4-4. The Swiss fired a backhand passing shot from behind the baseline in game #9 to reach break point. Djokovic pulled out one of coach Boris Becker's old hallmarks -- a serve-and-volley combo -- to save it, but when he tried to do it on the next point on a second serve Wawrinka fired a backhand return winner down the line. Another backhand winner to the corner ended a rally and gave Wawrinka a 5-4 lead and the chance to serve out the match.
There, things seemed over for a moment when Wawrinka appeared to serve an ace on his first match point, but the chair umpire looked at the mark and called the ball out, extending the match. Djokovic saved the MP, then reached BP after his shot -- which appeared to be heading out -- bounced off the net cord and landed in the court. Wawrinka fired a crosscourt forehand that the Serb dug off the baseline, sending a backhand winner down the line. He had his chance to get back into the match. But he sailed a forehand long, then Wawrinka's big serve went off the Serb's racket to give the Swiss a second match point. He won it, naturally, with a perfect backhand (winner #60 on the day, though oddly only his eleventh off the backhand that had controlled so many rallies) off the baseline on his first groundstroke of the point, winning his second major 4-6/6-4/6-3/6-4.
Wawrinka, winning another slam as the #8 seed taking out the #1 in the final, immediately ran off court to find a path into the stands to celebrate with coach Magnus Norman, to whom he credits so much of his success. Meanwhile, Djokovic sat on his chair in the changeover, contemplating a sixth loss in his last nine slam finals, three of them coming in the last four years in Paris. During the trophy ceremony, the Serb was greeted by an extraordinarily long ovation from the French crowd (yeah... who'da thunk it, huh? The French crowd!). It had to help. But not enough to take away ALL the sting.
Of course, with this result, one has to wonder if Wawrinka is really this good or just an expert at being in the right place at the right time. After all, he won his first major in Melbourne against an injured Nadal in the final, and we'll probably never know if Djokovic having to prepare to play three straight days after his semifinal with Murray was suspended on Friday had anything to do with the way he was gradually overtaken in today's match. Whatever the truth is, the OTHER Swiss man is a multiple slam winner, as well.
A single slam win might be a fluke. Two is not.
As for Djokovic, he NEEDED to win this title. Sure, he's still having a superior season, and this is his first loss in twenty-nine matches. He'll still be the favorite to win in BOTH London and New York, too. He's the unquestioned #1, but not winning today may have cost him his seat at the table of history somewhere down the line. A Grand Slam season is something that neither Federer nor Nadal will be able to claim once their careers have wrapped. 2015 may have been Djokovic's best chance to pull it off. He still could win three slams in a season for the season time in his career, but that's only enough to get a mention ALONG WITH Roger and Rafa. A subversive "numbers guy" case cannot be made for him to be a true "equal" without it. At least not at this point.
He'll likely complete his Career Slam in Paris, possibly as soon as next year. Though you have to think that if Nadal is going to ever get #10 it might be in 2016, after having gone out the way he did at this event. But Djokovic's consummate take down of the Spaniard last week in Paris ultimately went for naught. It's lost to history. A footnote. It could have been the linchpin in his calling card for greatness.
Now it's just a nice victory, and will forever be seen as more of a comment on the state of Nadal than that of the Serb. It's a shame, really.
But, hey, congrats to Stan. He truly was The Man on Chatrier on this day.
=DAY 15 NOTES=
...in the Women's Doubles, Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Lucie Safarova defeated Casey Dellacqua & Yaroslava Shvedova in three sets to take their second 2015 slam title and keep alive the notion of becoming the first duo to achieve a true Doubles Grand Slam since Martina Navratilova & Pam Shriver did it in 1984 (they actually won eight straight majors stretching from 1983-85 during the run). Martina Hingis pulled off a solo Doubles Grand Slam in 1998, winning the AO with Mirjana Lucic and the other three slams with Jana Novotna.
Mattek-Sands swept both the doubles and mixed titles in Paris, becoming the first woman to do so at a slam since Andrea Hlavackova at the U.S. Open in 2013. The last time it happened at Roland Garros was 2001, with Virginia Ruano Pascual taking home both championships.
...on the ITF circuit, Monica Niculescu won the $100K Marseille event, defeating Francoise Abanda, Sachia Vickery, Denisa Allertova, Mariana Duque and Pauline Parmentier in the final. The 27-year old Swarmette is a two-time WTA singles champ (2013-14), but this is her biggest title on the challenger level.
In the $50K grass court challenger in Eastbourne, Estonia's Anett Kontaveit won the biggest title of her career. The 19-year old defeated Alla Kudryavtseva in a pair of tie-breaks in the final to claim career circuit title #10. In doubles, Bannerettes Coco Vandeweghe & Shelby Rogers defeated Brits Jocelyn Rae & Anna Smith in the final. Vandeweghe is in the Netherlands this week, seeking to defend the maiden WTA singles title she won there last year.
...elsewhere, in Rosmalen qualifying for the 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands event, Ula Radwanska won an all-WTA sisters battle in the final round of qualifying, defeating Arina Rodionova after trailing 6-3/5-0. Saving one match point and breaking the Aussie's serve six straight times, U-Rad went on to win 3-6/7-6(6)/6-0. She won the last two games of the match at love.
Meanwhile, Aga is the top seed in the tour's return to Nottingham this week. Hmmm.
Well, grass court season has arrived. Who knows what evil lurks between the blades of grass.
...AND-SHE-GETS-THE-CREDIT-FOR-THE-HEADLINE ON DAY 15: *
WOWrinka— Alison Riske (@Riske4rewards) June 7, 2015
...WORD FROM ON HIGH ON DAY 15:
...THAT CRAZY DYNAMOIC DUO FROM DAY 15: & Co.
...SOMEONE WAS EXCITED ON DAY 15: Even if he mispelled "holy." Well, unless there's actually a cow in Switzerland named Holly, I mean.
Holly Swiss cow. That was something #bullets— Ivan Ljubicic (@theljubicic) June 7, 2015
...A THANK YOU ON DAY 15: And maybe a little warning?
...OH-NO FROM DAY 15:
Well, at least we won't see any copycats at Wimbledon.
...DARIA WRAPS UP SUNDAY IN THREE QUICK TWEETS FROM DAY 15:
WOW STAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) June 7, 2015
Djoko ??— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) June 7, 2015
I love Guga!— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) June 7, 2015
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND (Int'l $227K/Grass)
[new tour event]
14 Final: ($75K ITF) Ka.Pliskova d. Diyas [Last WTA event: 1973 - B.J. King d. V.Wade]
14 Doubles Final: ($75K ITF) Rae/Smith d. Fichman/Sanchez
15 Top Seeds: A.Radwanska/Diyas
#1 A.Radwanska d. Niculescu
Konjuh d. #5 Riske
#1 A.Radwanska d. Konjuh
's-HERTOGENBOSCH, NETHERLANDS (Int'l $227K/Grass)
14 Final: Vandeweghe d. J.Zheng
14 Doubles Final: Erakovic/Parmentier d. Krajicek/Mladenovic
15 Top Seeds: Bouchard/Jankovic
#3 Vandeweghe d. Erakovic
Van Uytvanck d. #2 Jankovic
#3 Vandeweghe d. Van Uytvanck
=WOMEN'S SINGLES FINAL=
#1 Serena Williams/USA def. #13 Lucie Safarova/CZE 6-3/6-7(2)/6-2
=MEN'S SINGLES FINAL=
#8 Stan Wawrinka/SUI def. #1 Novak Djokovic/SRB 4-6/6-4/6-3/6-4
=WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL=
#7 Mattek-Sands/Safarova (USA/CZE) def. #12 Dellacqua/Shvedova (AUS/KAZ) 3-6/6-4/6-2
=MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL=
#3 Dodig/Melo (CRO/BRA) def. #1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) 6-7(5)/7-6(5)/7-5
=MIXED DOUBLES FINAL=
#2 Mattek-Sands/M.Bryan (USA/USA) def. Hradecka/Matkowski (CZE/POL) 7-6(3)/6-1
=GIRLS SINGLES FINAL=
#12 Paula Badosa Gibert/ESP def. #16 Anna Kalinskaya/RUS 6-3/6-3
=BOYS SINGLES FINAL=
#13 Tommy Paul/USA def. #2 Taylor Harry Fritz/USA 7-6(4)/2-6/6-2
=GIRLS DOUBLES FINAL=
#1 Kolodziejova/Vondrousova (CZE/CZE) def. #6 Dolehide/Stewart (USA/USA) 6-0/6-3
=BOYS DOUBLES FINAL=
Lopez San Martin/Munar (ESP/ESP) def. #4 Blumberg/Paul (USA/USA) 6-4/6-2
=WC WOMEN'S SINGLES FINAL=
#2 Jiske Griffioen/NED def. Aniek Van Koot/NED 6-0/6-2
=WC MEN'S SINGLES FINAL=
#1 Shingo Kunieda/JPN def. #2 Stephane Houdet/FRA 6-1/6-0
=WC WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL=
#2 Griffioen/Van Koot (NED/NED) def. #1 Kamiji/Whiley (JPN/GBR) 7-6(1)/3-6 [10-8]
=WC MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL=
#2 Kunieda/Reid (JPN/GBR) def. Fernandez/Peifer (ARG/ARG) 6-1/7-6(1)
eat a burger ?? eat a fri fry ?? https://t.co/kTP3Vlhz6j— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) June 7, 2015
*RECENT RG WOMEN'S DOUBLES CHAMPIONS*
2006 Lisa Raymond & Samantha Stosur
2007 Alicia Molik & Mara Santangelo
2008 Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Virginia Ruano Pascual
2009 Anabel Medina-Garrigues & Virginia Ruano Pascual
2010 Serena Williams & Venus Williams
2011 Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka
2012 Sara Errani & Roberta Vinci
2013 Ekaterina Makarova & Elena Vesnina
2014 Hsieh Su-Wei & Peng Shuai
2015 Bethanie Mattek-Sands & Lucie Safarova
*CAREER WTA SLAM DOUBLES TITLES - active*
2...Anabel Medina Garrigues
**SLAM FINALS - ACTIVE MEN**
25...Roger Federer, SUI (17-8)
20...Rafael Nadal, ESP (14-6)
16...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB (8-8)
8...Andy Murray, GBR (2-6)
4...Lleyton Hewitt, AUS (2-2)
2...STAN WAWRINKA, SUI (2-0)
2...Robin Soderling, SWE (0-2)
**CAREER SLAM FINALS - MEN**
25 - Roger Federer (17-8)
20 - Rafael Nadal (14-6)
19 - Ivan Lendl (8-11)
18 - Pete Sampras (14-4)
17 - Rod Laver (11-6)
16 - Bjorn Borg (11-5)
16 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC (8-8)
16 - Ken Rosewall (8-8)
**RECENT RG MEN'S FINALS**
2011 Rafael Nadal def. Roger Federer 7-5,7-6,5-7,6-1
2012 Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic 6-4,6-3,2-6,7-5
2013 Rafael Nadal def. David Ferrer 6-3,6-2,6-3
2014 Rafael Nadal def. Novak Djokovic 3-6,7-5,6-2,6-4
2015 Stan Wawrinka def. Novak Djokovic 4-6/6-4/6-3/6-4
*2015 ATP FINALS*
7 - NOVAK DJOKOVIC (5-2)
5 - Roger Federer (3-2)
4 - Andy Murray (2-2)
3 - STAN WAWRINKA (3-0)
3 - David Ferrer (3-0)
3 - Kei Nishikori (2-1)
3 - Tomas Berdych (0-3)
TOP QUALIFIER: Veronica Cepede Royg/PAR
TOP EARLY-ROUND (1r-2r): #11 Angelique Kerber/GER
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #13 Lucie Safarova/CZE
TOP LATE-ROUND (SF-F): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Wang Yafan/CHN d. #15 Richel Hogenkamp/NED 2-6/7-6(7)/8-6 (saved 4 MP)
TOP EARLY-RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd. - Francesca Schiavone/ITA d. #18 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS 6-7(11)/7-5/10-8 (3:49; saved MP; third-longest RG match)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - #1 Serena Williams/USA d. Sloane Stephens/USA 1-6/7-5/6-3
TOP LATE-RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): SF - #1 Serena Williams/USA d. #23 Timea Bacsinszky/SUI 4-6/6-3/6-0
FIRST VICTORY: (Q) Teliana Pereira/BRA (def. WC Ferro/FRA)
FIRST SEED OUT: #31 Caroline Garcia/FRA (lost 1st Rd. to Vekic/CRO)
UPSET QUEENS: The Croats
REVELATION LADIES: The New Australians
NATION OF POOR SOULS: United States (most players in draw w/ 17, but tied for 4th w/ just 4 1st Round winners)
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Lourdes Dominguez-Lino/ESP, Paula Kania/POL, Sesil Karatantcheva/BUL, Teliana Pereira/BRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST WILD CARD STANDING: Virginie Razzano/FRA & Amandine Hesse/FRA (2nd Rd.)
LAST PASTRY STANDING: Alize Cornet (4th Rd.)
MADEMOISELLE/MADAM OPPORTUNITY: Timea Bacsinszky/SUI & Alison Van Uytvanck/BEL (play for spot in first slam SF)
IT "??": (Swarmette) Andreea Mitu/ROU (last Romanian standing)
COMEBACK PLAYER: #7 Ana Ivanovic/SRB (1st RG QF since '08 title)
CRASH & BURN: #2 Simona Halep/ROU (lost 2r to Lucic-Baroni/CRO)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #19 Elina Svitolina/UKR (2nd Rd. vs. Putintseva - down 6-1/3-0, then 4-1 in 3rd; won 9-7 deciding set)
JOIE DE VIVRE: Francesca Schiavone/ITA
DOUBLES STAR: Bethanie Mattek-Sands/USA
KIMIKO DATE-KRUMM VETERAN CUP (KDK CUP): #13 Lucie Safarova/CZE
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Paula Badosa/ESP
All for Day 15. Clay Court Awards this week.