Stan Wawrinka confirms elite status, Novak Djokovic human after all: US Open talking points

The 2016 US Open, the final grand slam tournament of the season, served up plenty of drama and provided an insight into what we can expect for the remainder of this season and the start of next.
Angelique Kerber poses with her 2016 US Open Women’s singles champion trophy at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Jewel Samad
Angelique Kerber poses with her 2016 US Open Women’s singles champion trophy at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. Jewel Samad

The 2016 US Open, the final grand slam tournament of the season, served up plenty of drama and provided an insight into what we can expect for the remainder of this season and the start of next.

Stan IS the man

Stan Wawrinka: the ultimate big-game player. In the past 11 finals the Swiss world No 3 has reached, he has won all 11.

He has also won all three of the grand slam finals he’s played, demolishing an albeit injured Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final for his first major title, producing an inspired display from a set down against Novak Djokovic in the 2015 French Open final, before an almost carbon copy performance against the Serb in New York on Sunday night.

• More: Stan Wawrinka wins | In pictures

For a player whose mental fortitude was questioned earlier in his career, Wawrinka’s calmness under pressure when on the grandest of stages has played a vital role in his ascent to the elite.

After his victory inside the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Wawrinka, who at 31 years old became the oldest US Open champion in 46 years, said he is “really far” from joining the so-called “Big Four” of Djokovic, Nadal, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer.

But as much as he wants to downplay it, Wawrinka is at the top table, particularly in the best-of-five format.

He is only a Wimbledon title away from a career grand slam.

What perhaps sets Wawrinka apart from the other top guys is a level of consistency between the four majors, as his solitary Masters 1000 title can attest.

In comparison, Murray, who has the same amount of grand slam titles, has won 12.

There are two more Masters 1000 tournaments to play this season, at Shanghai and Paris next month.

Victory in either of those will help to dispel suggestions Wawrinka’s success is limited to the majors, and should he get to either final, there is likely to be just one outcome.

Djokovic human after all

It’s been a bizarre few months for Djokovic.

An invincible first half of the season that included the Qatar, Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Rome and French Open titles has made way for an unmistakable dip.

A third-round defeat at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey was followed by a first-round loss at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to Juan Martin del Potro.

Yes, Djokovic did win the Rogers Cup at Toronto in between, but there was an unusual vulnerability about the world No 1 heading into the US Open.

Shoulder and wrist injuries hampered his preparation, while “private issues” were cited for his early Wimbledon exit.

His US Open campaign never really hit full stride due to opponents’ injury retirements, and in the final he looked physically and mentally drained.

Djokovic’s dominance the past three seasons might be starting to take toll as he attempts to balance being the world’s best tennis player with family commitments.

The ebbing away of that aura of invincibility, however slight, will only serve to help Djokovic’s rivals in the closing stages of the season.

Despite his best efforts to present himself as otherwise, Djokovic is still human and can be afforded the odd lull.

How he responds from these relative setbacks will give a fairer indication on the future hierarchy of the men’s game.

Continue to struggle and it could set up an intriguing end to the season and start to next.

Bounce back and it will be deemed nothing but a minor blip. Knowing Djokovic, we can all expect the latter.

Queen Kerber

It took 186 weeks but someone has finally managed to dethrone Serena Williams as the No 1 women’s tennis player in the world.

German Angelique Kerber achieved the feat after Williams, 34, was knocked out of the US Open in the semi-finals by Karolina Pliskova.

• More: Kerber wins | In pictures

Congratulations must go to Kerber, who has produced an astonishing level of consistency.

She has reached three grand slam finals this season, winning in Melbourne for her first major title before her victory in New York.

With Williams so long the undisputed force of women’s tennis, Kerber’s meteoric — and comparatively late — rise has added a new narrative and rivalry to the WTA Tour.

Kerber, 28, is now tasked with holding off a renewed challenge from Williams, who is sure to make reclaiming top spot her No 1 priority.

The tussle between these two for the top ranking is sure to make for fascinating viewing until the end of the season.

jturner@thenational.ae

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Published: September 12, 2016 04:00 AM

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