(CNN) Stan Wawrinka considers himself to be a cut below the “Big Four” in tennis. But when it comes to toppling Novak Djokovic lately at grand slams — the leading member, on current form, of the illustrious quartet that also includes Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray — Wawrinka has no equal.
He demonstrated it again Sunday, upsetting the world No. 1, 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 7-5 6-3, in a bruising US Open final to win a third grand slam title.
Djokovic sizzled at the start, racing to a 4-1 lead. But in allowing Wawrinka to find his way into the first set, the match veered in a different, and for Djokovic, displeasing direction. Djokovic was broken to end the second and third sets, before suffering physically in the fourth.
Wawrinka possesses thunderous strokes able to penetrate the perhaps unparalleled defense of Djokovic, with his versatile one-handed backhand attracting the majority of the plaudits. But don’t forget the forehand, which is among the most punishing around. He struck a stunning 46 winners.
Whereas Djokovic has won four grand slam matches in a row against Wawrinka’s fellow Swiss, Federer, five straight against Murray and the only one he contested against Nadal since 2015, he is merely 3-3 in his last six against Wawrinka.
Who was the last player to down Djokovic in a grand slam final? Wawrinka, at the 2015 French Open when he also conceded the first set. Now he took a bite out of Djokovic in the Big Apple.
This after saving a match point against Dan Evans in the third round. How Djokovic must have wished Evans completed the job.
Wawrinka refuses to be featured in any “Big Five;” he feels the other four are much more consistent. Indeed he sometimes suffers baffling losses, but the deeper the Swiss progresses at events, the more dangerous he becomes: He has won his last 11 finals.
Djokovic benefited from unprecedented luck at this US Open — three of his opponents either retired or withdrew before the semifinals — but perhaps it still wasn’t enough to mend an array of injuries. Or, did he not play enough tennis?
He arrived at the US Open with a well publicized wrist injury, then had his arm and both shoulders worked on by the trainer in matches during the fortnight. In the fourth set against Wawrinka, he took two medical timeouts for what appeared to be toe issues.
The first one irked Wawrinka, since it happened not during a changeover — which is the norm — but at 3-1. Djokovic apologized to his pal while receiving treatment.
Not until the Australian Open in January will Djokovic, who has spoken of his desire to match Federer’s leading men’s haul of 17 majors, get his next opportunity to collect a 13th grand slam title.
While Djokovic concludes the grand slam season as the lone men’s player to collect two major titles, he came up empty at his last two.