Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, reacts after he won a point in the third set from Novak Djokovic, of Serbia, during their men's championship match in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the 2016 US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on September 11, 2016. Wawrinka won the championship 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. Photo by Ray Stubblebine/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK -- Stan Wawrinka had lost 19 of his previous 23 encounters against Novak Djokovic heading into the US Open final, but in the biggest moments he is able to muster some of his most impressive performances.
Wawrinka's latest effort came when he utilized his massive forehand and brilliant one-handed backhand to overpower Djokovic to win his first US Open title, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 before an Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd of 25,051. The epic encounter lasted 3 hours, 55 minutes.
On his second match point, the No. 3-seeded Wawrinka captured the title when an ailing Djokovic sailed a backhand long. Wawrinka then climbed into the crowd to hug his coach, Magnus Norman, and the rest of his team.
"Honestly, this is amazing," Wawrinka, who has now won 11 straight finals, said on-court. "I came here without putting goal to win it but every time I step on the court I was trying to win every match. I think I played quite a lot of tennis these two weeks. I'm completely empty. I had to bring everything I had today against Novak. Again, was so much emotion with the crowd, with the atmosphere, with that stadium. This is something I never had before so thank you so much. It's been amazing night again."
The 31-year-old Swiss is now a perfect 3-0 in Grand Slam finals, having beaten Djokovic en route to all three.
Wawrinka had previously beaten Djokovic in the 2015 Roland Garros final and in the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals.
Wawrinka, who has spent much of his career in the shadow of countryman Roger Federer, now has more Grand Slam titles since 2014 then Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray combined (2).
Wawrinka became the first player over 30 to win the Open since Pete Sampras in 2002, and the oldest to win it since Ken Rosewall in 1970. He also joined an exclusive club of men who have won three of the four major titles, a list that includes Sampras, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, among others. Wawrinka needs only a Wimbledon title now to complete a career Grand Slam.
"I've been practicing a lot since many, many years since I'm really young," he said. "My goal is to give everything I have to be the best player I can. I never had the goal to win a Grand Slam, to be No. 1 in the world but I'm trying step by step to be the best that I can and that's what happened tonight. I'm so happy the way I'm playing. I took the confidence all two weeks, match after match, playing better after each match and really happy again."
Djokovic, meantime, fell to 2-5 in US Open finals and remained at 12 Grand Slam titles for his career.
He took two medical timeouts late in the match to deal with a bloody toe on his right foot, one of which lasted six minutes and appeared to aggravate Wawrinka.
"The toenails were off and bleeding so it was quite painful to move around but I tried," Djokovic said.
Djokovic entered the tournament with a left wrist injury suffered before the Rio Olympics, but also benefited from three walkovers or retirements during his run to the final.
"A few weeks before US Open, I was thinking should I come or not because I struggled physically," Djokovic said. "But if someone told me I was going to play finals I would take it. I would definitely accept it."
The 29-year-old Serb previously won both the Australian and French Opens this year. His only letdown in the majors was a third-round upset loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon. He will enter 2017 attempting to catch up with Sampras and Rafael Nadal (14 apiece).
Wawrinka had spent about twice as much time on court during the tournament as Djokovic. The Swiss also fended off a match point in his third-round win over Brit Dan Evans, perhaps giving him a dose of freedom and confidence going forward.
It took Wawrinka a while to settle in with his groundstrokes, but after losing the first set in a tiebreak his concussive groundstrokes began to find the lines in the second set as he raced out to a 4-1 lead. Djokovic broke in the seventh game to get back on serve.
But with Djokovic serving at 4-5, 30-40, he smacked a forehand wide, leveling the match at one set apiece. After big points in his favor, Wawrinka would point to his temple and look at the crowd, a sign that he was feeling good.
In the third set, Wawrinka broke Djokovic early to seize a 3-0 lead, but Djokovic broke back and they were on serve when Djokovic served to send it to a tiebreak. But on break point, he went to retrieve a shot from Wawrinka on his backhand side and sailed the shot wide, giving Wawrinka a two-set-to-one lead.
Wawrinka quickly broke Djokovic in the second game of the fourth set en route to a 3-0 lead.
Despite spending less time on court than Wawrinka during the Open, Djokovic's body began to break down in the fourth set.
At 1-3 in the fourth set, Djokovic called for the trainer who worked on what cameras showed to be a bloody right toe for six minutes, which aggravated Wawrinka.
"Sorry, Stan," Djokovic said afterward.
Wawrinka shook it off and then held serve for a 5-2 lead.
Djokovic then called for another medical timeout to have the toe treated and wrapped.
"After playing seven, eight months of the season, obviously you are not very fresh but of course coming into the Grand Slam final you are giving it your best," Djokovic said. "We played almost four hours and we both felt it. We both felt the demanding match that we played today physically.
"But he came on top and in the decisive moments he was a better player, he was tougher mentally, he knew what to do and I was just unlucky in some moments. And that's it, that's sport. A few points decide a winner on this level, but again it was a fantastic couple of weeks for me."