Pointing to his temple after winning the biggest of points, Stan Wawrinka wore Novak Djokovic down and beat the defending champion 6-7 (1-7) 6-4 7-5 6-3 for his first US Open men’s title and third grand slam trophy overall.
The 31-year-old Wawrinka is the oldest US Open men’s champion since Ken Rosewall was 35 in 1970.
Wawrinka has won only five of 24 career meetings against Djokovic, but has now beaten the 12-time major champion on the way to each of his own grand slam titles, including in the 2014 Australian Open quarter-finals and 2015 French Open final.
He already had gained the upper hand by the time No.1 Djokovic clutched at his upper left leg and grimaced after missing a forehand while getting broken early in the fourth set.
From there, Djokovic briefly began conceding points, showing little of the fight he’s so famous for.
Trailing 3-1 in the fourth set, Djokovic was granted the unusual chance to have a medical timeout at a time other than a changeover. He removed both shoes and socks so a trainer could help him out with what appeared to be blisters on toes.
Wawrinka complained to the chair umpire about the six-minute break, and Djokovic looked over and apologised.
When they resumed, Djokovic earned three break points, but Wawrinka held for 4-1.
That continued a pattern that carried throughout: Djokovic, as good a returner as there is in the game – now, certainly, and perhaps ever – managed to convert only three of 17 break chances.
Djokovic started limping later and received more toe treatment at the changeover before he served down 5-2 in the fourth.
Before this matchup, Djokovic praised Wawrinka as “a big-match player,” and, boy, is he ever.
He wasn’t always.
Playing in the shadow of his far-more-accomplished Swiss countryman and good pal, Roger Federer, Wawrinka needed until his 35th appearance at a major, at age 28, just to get to the semi-finals for the first time.
But look at Wawrinka now.
He has now won 11 tournament finals in a row.
He is 3-0 in grand slam finals, beating the No.1-ranked player each time.
And he did it Sunday against Djokovic, whose French Open title in June completed a career grand slam and made him only the third man – and first in nearly a half-century – to win four consecutive major tournaments.