Wawrinka has risen to the occasion in big matches in recent years, moving to 3-0 in major finals and extending his staggering win streak in tour-level finals to 11 straight. All three Grand Slam title runs have included wins over the World No. 1 in the final, having previously defeated Nadal for the 2014 Australian Open crown and Djokovic in the Roland Garros final last year. “This is amazing,” said Wawrinka during the trophy presentation. “I came here without expecting to win it. When I stepped on the court, I tried to win every match. I did everything today against Novak. The crowd and atmosphere was something I’ve never had before. It’s an amazing night.” With the win, Wawrinka secured qualification for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, joining Djokovic and Murray at The O2 in London. He will be making his fourth consecutive appearance at the season finale, having reached the semi-finals in each of the past three years. Wawrinka, who fired 46 winners, including three aces, while saving an impressive 14 of 17 break points, prevailed after almost four hours. After Djokovic took the first set in a tie-break, the Swiss showed his true mettle, breaking the defending champion early in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th sets. His steely resolve was on full display as he maintained his composure throughout the encounter, eventually triumphing on his second match point. Wawrinka is now 15-6 at the US Open when dropping the opening set. “Today I was trying to stay with him,” Wawrinka told the assembled media following the match. “I was trying to be tough with myself, trying not to show anything, not to show any pain, not to show any cramps, not to show anything. I was suffering on the court, but I’m happy and proud with what I have achieved today. There is no secret. If you want to beat the No. 1 player in the world, you have to give everything. You have to accept to suffer and you have almost to enjoy to suffer. Because I think this Grand Slam was the most painful, physically and mentally that I ever played.” “He definitely deserves to be mentioned in the mix of top players,” Djokovic said about Wawrinka. “He’s been around for so many years and he plays best in the big matches. “I lost my nerves in the important moments. He kept his cool. I think that’s what decided the match. I just didn’t capitalise at all on my opportunities. I had plenty of them. It was a terrible conversion of the break points. Just terrible from my side. “n matches like these, if you don’t use the opportunities, the other guy comes and takes it. And that’s what he did. That’s why I said he was more courageous, because he stepped in and played aggressive where I was waiting for things to happen.” Wawrinka became the fifth man in the Open Era to win multiple major singles crowns after turning 30, joining Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors. The 31-year-old is the oldest Grand Slam champion since Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open and also became the first man to win his first three majors at different events since Agassi. Stats of the final
Wawrinka prides himself on his durability and fitness and the two factors guided the third-seeded Swiss to victory on Friday in the US Open semi-finals. Wawrinka rallied from an early deficit to defeat Nishikori, setting a championship clash against top seed and two-time champion Djokovic. With oppressive heat and humidity wreaking havoc all day, Wawrinka outlasted Nishikori in a four-set battle. “I knew I could always come back,” said Wawrinka on ESPN’s set following the match. “My game plan is to be aggressive. I knew I could fight for three, four, five hours. I want to make them suffer and that’s what I did against Del Potro and today as well.” On an overcast Friday evening, conditions looked to be challenging for both players, but Nishikori initially showed no ill-effects, bursting out of the gates to seize the early initiative. Launching his groundstrokes deep to Wawrinka’s backhand and opening the court to attack, the Japanese earned a quick break for 3:2 and eventually took a one-set lead. Nishikori won an impressive 16 of 17 first-serve points to open the match, but it was two second serves that would cost him the break early in the 2nd. Wawrinka countered Nishikori’s aggressive play with an attacking statement of his own, rifling a backhand winner that clipped the baseline to level the set at 3-all. The steady Swiss began plotting his comeback deep in the second set, employing his brand of power tennis to deny six break points, including from 0/40 in the 7th game. It proved to be the turning point in the match. Injecting significant pace into his shots off the ground, he would eventually convert his second set point to draw level at one apiece. “It was really wet,” Wawrinka added in his press conference. “It was tough conditions. I just knew that it was important not to show it, to stay there, because I also know that in a five-set match there is some up and down. It’s important to not spend energy by being negative and show the opponent that you’re struggling. I think today it make a big difference for myself.” The lead oscillated between the two competitors in the critical 3rd set. First, Wawrinka broke. Then, it was Nishikori’s turn. Both competitors enjoyed runs of three straight games won, but the third-seeded Swiss would have the last laugh. With the roof closed during a period of rain, the Japanese’s energy level began to wane and Wawrinka would pounce on his opportunities. Nishikori’s service speed dipped and his unforced error count grew, while Wawrinka continued to blast away from the baseline, breaking in the 10th game for a two-sets-to-one lead. Wawrinka would pull away in the fourth set, capturing the first 10 points. Despite conceding the break back three games later, he proved to be too strong in the end. Nishikori’s unforced error count rose to 46 and Wawrinka’s winner total soared to 37, as the Swiss broke twice more to seal the victory on his second match point. Stats of the match
Djokovic will play for his third US Open title after surviving a tight and sometimes bizarre semi-final match against Monfils on Friday afternoon. The two-time US Open champion (2011, 2015) prevailed on Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach his seventh US Open final. Djokovic also extended his dominance over Monfils. The Serbian now leads their Head2Head series 13-0. “It was a strange match, as it always is, I guess, when you play Gael, who is a very unpredictable player,” Djokovic said. “So it was a good win for me today.” With the win, Djokovic has now reached seven of the past eight Grand Slam tournament finals, his only absence Wimbledon earlier this year when he fell in the third round to Sam Querrey. The top seed will try to win the 13th Grand Slam title of his career and the eighth title of his 2016 on Sunday. It wasn’t easy getting through the tricky Monfils on Friday. Djokovic could not have envisioned a better start to the match. After 13 minutes, he led 4:0, mostly from putting the ball in play and letting a nervy Monfils make mistakes. The Frenchman would finish the first set with 16 unforced errors, including five double faults. But with Djokovic serving at 5:1, Monfils changed his tactics and started slicing nearly everything back, electing to hit through the ball only when Djokovic approached the net. The change rattled Djokovic, who double faulted to get broken. “I was completely caught off guard when he just stood there and chipped the ball back and didn’t do much. If I would get to the net he would go for the passing shot and hit some impossible gets and balls,” Djokovic said. Soon Monfils was back in the set at 3:5 (40/15). “Why… stay and lose 6-0 and not change anything?” Monfils said. “Definitely, I try to get in his head. Try to create something new for him to see… When the guy is too good, playing clean and you’re playing very bad… you need to change. At the end, that’s why I think it was necessary, and I almost got back in the first set.” But Djokovic restored order and had claimed the opener in 36 minutes. It was the first set Monfils had lost all tournament long in Flushing Meadows. He had been just the 10th player in the past 25 years to reach the US Open semi-finals without dropping a set. In the second set, Djokovic upped his level. He won almost 90 per cent of his service points (16/18) and was perfect at the net (6/6). It looked as if he would cruise into the final in straight sets. “Everything was working,” Djokovic said. But Monfils came alive in the 3rd set, producing some of the tennis that had helped him win 15 consecutive sets in New York. The 30-year-old also rallied the crowd behind him. After nailing a backhand winner at 2-all, “La Monf” let out a yell that had fans jumping to their feet. Serving for the set at 5:3, he produced more excitement. Monfils fell behind 0/40 but crawled his way into the game and had a set point. Djokovic, upset at his missed opportunities, ripped his shirt before Monfils served on set point and crushed a backhand winner up the line to more cheers from the crowd. “The momentum shifted. He felt his chance was there. He got it. Crowd got into it,” Djokovic said. All of a sudden it seemed like the match could go the distance. Monfils, who had hit 27 unforced errors in the first two sets, had played more controlled tennis in the third, hitting only four unforced errors. But the defending champion Djokovic quickly grabbed control of the 4th set, breaking to get to 4:2 and breaking once more – his eighth break of the match – to move into the final. “I just managed to hold my nerves and be patient and close out the match in good fashion,” Djokovic said.
In a back-and-forth contest that featured 17 breaks of serve, Nishikori was ultimately the more settled player during the match’s tightest moments. “There were many up and downs, but I tried to [stay] calm. I think that’s the most important thing I did today. Even though there were many up and downs I tried to stay tough,” Nishikori said. The memorable performance is just the latest time “Clutch Kei” has stepped up in a decider. Heading into the match, Nishikori was already the most successful player in matches that had gone to a decider. Nishikori owned a 96-26 record, giving him a winning percentage of 79 per cent, a higher percentage than anyone in the Open Era. At no point on Wednesday was Nishikori more clutch than deep in the fifth set. With Murray serving at 5-all in the decider, Nishikori attacked a second serve and, as he did 39 times in the match, he approached the net. Nishikori lunged at Murray’s passing shot and his forehand volley dropped in for an uncontested winner and the break. The sixth seed served out the set to reach the last four in Flushing Meadows. “I saw some opportunities to come in today so I tried to be aggressive. I saw that’s what I had to do, especially against Andy. He has great defense,” Nishikori said. “I don’t know why I served and volleyed a lot today… but it was working. I think it was a great mix, serving and volleying and coming to the net.” The victory also marks just the second time Nishikori has beaten the Brit during their nine Head2Head meetings. In fact, before a five-set Davis Cup match earlier this season, Nishikori hadn’t even taken a set off of Murray. The Scot started their rivalry by winning the first 12 sets. The quarter-final match in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium began the way their past series had gone as well. The 2012 US Open champion Murray controlled the 1st set and looked to be well on his way to a semi-final in New York for the fourth time. The 29-year-old won more than half of his return points and especially attacked Nishikori’s second serve, winning 8/10 second-serve points. “Obviously I was in a good position up a set,” Murray said. But the sixth seed Nishikori bounced back in the 2nd set, mixing in drop shots and more slice and refusing to simply rally against the No. 2 player in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The Shimane, Japan, native said he especially benefited from a brief chat with his coach Michael Chang, a former World No. 1 and a finalist at the 1996 US Open. The two talked as officials covered Arthur Ashe Stadium with its new roof at 3-all. “After the rain delay I think I improved a little bit with my coach, and I tried to change my tennis and it started working better. I started to get my rhythm back,” Nishikori said. In the3rd set, neither player could take control. The set featured five breaks of serve, and the most crucial came at 4-all on Nishikori’s racquet. The 26-year-old was serving 30/40, 4-all, when he tried another drop shot but floated it wide to give Murray the break. After a hold to start the 4th, it looked like Murray would, at last, seize control of the quarter-final contest and continue his stellar stretch into the semi-finals. Since losing in the Roland Garros final, the Brit had gone 26-1 and reached seven consecutive finals. But Nishikori would not go away. At 1:1, during a break-point opportunity for Murray, a loud noise in Arthur Ashe Stadium caused a let. Murray looked flustered after the disturbance, and Nishikori took advantage. The 2014 US Open finalist reeled off six seven games to even the match and lead 2:0 in the decider in which “Clutch Kei” showed how he has achieved a higher winning percentage in matches that go to a decider than anyone in the Open Era. Nishikori stayed calm. Even after he broke Murray for a 6:5 lead in the 5th (held in the previous game at love), Nishikori didn’t jump or shout with excitement; he simply walked to his chair and prepared to hold and reach the semi-finals at the US Open. Stats of the match
3rd quarterfinal: (3)Stan Wawrinka d. (WC)Juan M. Del Potro 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 [3:13 h]
Wawrinka reached the US Open semi-finals for the third time with a late-night victory over 2009 champion Del Potro. The match ended at 1:20 a.m. local time on Thursday. The fifth-seeded Swiss hit 53 winners including 10 aces. “It’s going to be interesting for sure,” said Wawrinka, looking forward to playing Nishikori. “We have played many times against each other. He beat me a few years ago here [in the] quarter-finals [over] five sets. He beat me in Toronto and I beat him in Australia. I saw him play today. He was playing really well. We will see also how I’m going to feel physically in two days to get ready for that. I’m ready for a match against Kei.” The late-night match was a contrast in styles between Wawrinka’s balanced attack and Del Potro’s forehand-centric game. Played in humid conditions, the Argentine raced to a 3:0 lead in the 1st set, but Wawrinka’s precise baseline patterns and finishing power from the backhand side allowed him to regain the initiative. Wawrinka started the 4th set with a break and held his nerve to record his 37th match win of the season (37-12 overall). It was his first victory over del Potro since 2008 Wimbledon. “It was important to stay there, to stay tough,” said Wawrinka. “I knew before the match that against Del Potro it’s a tough challenge. He’s playing well. He’s strong mentally. He doesn’t give you much. It’s going to be painful physically and mentally to stay there, so I had to adapt my game a little bit. It’s not a player that I can really always play the way I want to against, because he’s so aggressive… I’m happy with the way I was fighting, with myself. I’m happy with the way I found a solution in the third set to take advantage.”
A lot can happen in 10 years, but little has changed for Djokovic at the US Open. As it has been the case for every year since 2007, the Serbian is into the last four at the year’s final Grand Slam event. American tennis legend Jimmy Connors holds the record with 12 straight semi-final showings. “I put myself in a position again to be one match away from the final. As the tournament progresses, I feel like I’m getting better,” Djokovic said. “I’m reaching my peak in terms of my form.” The World No. 1 and defending US Open champion advanced on Tuesday night when Tsonga retired due to a left knee injury, with Djokovic leading two-sets-to-love. He first announced himself to the New York crowd with a run to the final in 2007 (l. to Federer), then captured the title in 2011 (d. Nadal) and 2015 (d. Federer). Even if fully healthy, Tsonga would have had his hands full with the in-form Djokovic. The Serbian won their first tour-level meeting to claim his maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open eight years ago and came into the match with a 15-6 lead in their Head2Head rivalry. In the two sets played on Tuesday night, Djokovic once against used his superior defensive acumen to nullify Tsonga’s booming inside-out forehand, and guided his two-handed backhands down the line to exploit the Frenchman’s court positioning. Djokovic amassed 18 winners and 12 unforced errors during the abbreviated match, while Tsonga, frequently going for broke due to his impaired movement, hit 11 winners and 36 unforced errors. One of the best returners in the game, the Serbian won 18 of 25 points when facing the Tsonga second serve.
Friendships don’t matter when you step onto a tennis court. Pouille had taken out Nadal in a dramatic five-set battle in the US Open fourth round. But it came at a price. With Pouille fatigued, his good friend and countryman Monfils showed no mercy, reaching his first US Open semi-final with a resounding victory on Arthur Ashe Stadium. “I’m happy with my performance. I think it is never easy to play a quarter-final against a French guy. I think I handled it pretty good mentally,” Monfils said. “I’m happy with that and where my game is.” It is the first time in the Open Era that three Frenchmen have reached the quarter-finals of the same Grand Slam event. “I think we all work hard, and somehow we make it in the same moment,” Monfils said. The 10th-seeded Monfils has been untouchable so far in New York. The Frenchman, who celebrated his 30th birthday last week, has won all 15 sets in his campaign and has compiled a 19-2 record on hard courts since Wimbledon. Working with Mikael Tillstrom this season, Monfils has produced one of his career-best campaigns. The Frenchman is in strong contention to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the first time after winning his sixth ATP title in Washington (d. Karlovic) and reaching the finals in Monte-Carlo (l. to Nadal) and Rotterdam (l. to Klizan). Monfils is currently eighth in the Emirates ATP Race to London, with the top eight players at the end of the regular season set to compete at The O2. “My health has been big trouble all my career, and now it is somehow stabilized,” Monfils said. “I think it helps me a lot to be stronger.”