Wawrinka tops Djokovic in French fi­nal

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY HOWARD FENDRICH

Stan Wawrinka won the French Open by beat­ing No. 1-seeded No­vak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the fi­nal Sun­day, thwart­ing Djokovic’s bid to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam.

The eighth-seeded Wawrinka, so long in the shadow of his Swiss Davis Cup team­mate and pal, Roger Fed­erer, col­lected his sec­ond ma­jor ti­tle af­ter last year’s Aus­tralian Open.

In do­ing so, Wawrinka put a stop to Djokovic’s 28-match win­ning streak and left the 28-yearold Serb ru­ing an­other close call at Roland Gar­ros. This was the third time in the last four years that Djokovic lost in the fi­nal at the clay- court tour­na­ment, the only ma­jor ti­tle he has never won.

This one ended, fit­tingly, with a down-the-line back­hand win­ner from the 30-year-old Wawrinka. That’s his best stroke and con­sid­ered among the best in the game. He tossed his racket over­head, then met Djokovic at the net for a hug.

“One day, you will win Roland Gar­ros,” Wawrinka told Djokovic dur­ing the post-match cer­e­mony. “You de­serve it.”

Wawrinka, who earned 1.8 mil­lion eu­ros (about US$2 mil­lion), was mak­ing his 11th French Open ap­pear­ance, equal­ing Fed­erer and An­dre Agassi for most at­tempts be­fore win­ning it.

This was also Djokovic’s 11th French Open, and he has so far been un­able to clutch the tro­phy he so dearly de­sires. He has won eight Grand Slam ti­tles, with five at the Aus­tralian Open, two at Wim­ble­don and one at the U.S. Open.

He’s made quite clear how much it would mean to him to be­come the eighth man in ten­nis his­tory with a full com­ple­ment of at least one ti­tle from each ma­jor.

“I can tell you,” Djokovic told the crowd, “that I will keep try­ing to win this tro­phy.”

Djokovic came up short against Rafael Nadal in the 2012 and 2014 fi­nals, but he cleared that hur­dle this year with a straight-set victory over the nine-time cham­pion in the quar­ter­fi­nals. Djokovic fol­lowed that by elim­i­nat­ing No. 3 Andy Mur­ray in a five-set semi­fi­nal con­tested over two days that con­cluded about 25 hours be­fore Sun­day’s start.

Nor­mally, it’s the slid­ing, stretch­ing, body-con­tort­ing brand of de­fense Djokovic de­lights in that wears down op­po­nents, but he looked spent by the end Sun­day.

When he clinched the first set, Djokovic swiveled to look to­ward his box, where his coaches — Mar­ian Va­jda, who’s worked with him for nearly a decade, and Boris Becker, brought aboard last year ex­pressly to help win ma­jors — jumped out of their seats.

Djokovic stood tall and bel­lowed. The tro­phy, propped on the wooden edge of the pres­i­dent’s box, stood put a few feet away, re­flect­ing the sun’s rays. And now that tro­phy was but two sets away. So close, yet so far. Wawrinka was un­able to take ad­van­tage of his first five break points Sun­day. But with the help of a back­hand win­ner that gar­nered a thumb’s up from Djokovic, then a fore­hand win­ner, Wawrinka earned No. 6, which also hap­pened to be a set point, and this one did not go to waste. On a 23-stroke point, Djokovic was the one who fal­tered, slap­ping a back­hand long.

Tied at a set apiece, Djokovic reared back and spiked his racket off the court, caught it, and, un­sat­is­fied, slammed it down a sec­ond time, man­gling the thing. That drew de­ri­sive whis­tles from spec­ta­tors and a warn­ing from the chair um­pire.

Wawrinka then took the third set, break­ing for a 4-2 edge dur­ing a 10-point run and mo­tion­ing to the crowd to cheer louder for him.

By now, Wawrinka was the ag­gres­sor on most points, his shots find­ing their ap­pointed marks near lines, and he was de­liv­er­ing twice as many win­ners as Djokovic.

And then it was Djokovic’s turn to shift gears, mak­ing zero un­forced er­rors on the way to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set. Wawrinka, though, reeled off six of the last seven games. He broke for 3-2 when Djokovic net­ted a fore­hand on a 31-stroke ex­change.

Wawrinka got an­other break, the last he’d need, for a 5-4 edge, with — yes, of course — a down­the-line back­hand win­ner, then served out the victory.

He had lost 17 of his past 20 matches against Djokovic but would not re­lent on this sun­lit af­ter­noon. Soon it was Wawrinka, not Djokovic, hoist­ing the win- ner’s tro­phy over­head.

When Djokovic re­ceived his run­ner’s-up plate, the spec­ta­tors gave him a long ova­tion. Djokovic shook his head and his eyes welled with tears.

(Left) Switzer­land’s Stan Wawrinka holds the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the men’s fi­nal of the French Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in four sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, against Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic at the Roland Gar­ros sta­dium in Paris on Sun­day, June 7. (Right) Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic gives a thumbs-up as he holds the run­ner-up tro­phy af­ter the men’s fi­nal of the French Open ten­nis tour­na­ment, which was won by Switzer­land’s Stan Wawrinka in four sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 on Sun­day.

AP

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