Monday, June 08, 2015

Stani Wawrinka Stuns Djokovic to crush the dream

What an eventful end to a tournament while not boring didn't necessarily get the loins going, There were a few questions that were posed pre tournament just the final answer was very different to the conclusion that many were expecting.

Stani Wawrinka the 2015 Roland Garros champion is not a statement that many were expecting to utter or read after 15 days. His title and performance reminded me of why Roland Garros was my favourite Slam before Nadal's reign of terror here began in 2005. It was a well deserved title and that Roland Garros provided opportunities to players who generally weren't always contenders at the other Slams due to the specific nature of the surface guys like Gaudio, Muster, Albert Costa, Bruguera and Kuerten.

Stan the Man

Clay is Wawrinka's best surface it gives him more time for his huge and heavy groundstrokes, he moves better on this surface than the others. Though this isn't immediately obvious in the numbers since for the last 10 years the clay game has been dominated by Nadal more on him later. That was the beauty of Stani's triumph like Gaudio, Kuerten in 97 and Costa before him none of these players came in with great form but turned it on and peaked at the right time playing quality tennis.

This was meant to be the moment where Novak Djokovic achieves the career Grand Slam and win the one Slam that has evaded him. He contemptuously dismissed Nadal his main rival in the quarters and was heading for a comfortable win against Murray until the Scot came back taking it to 5 with a rain delay thrown in. The question was how would Djokovic handle the pressure of being so close to his goal and whether he would be in the right state of mind where he was able to play at the high level he has shown throughput the season.


Their last 4 Slam meetings have gone to 5 sets and it wouldn't have surprised if this was no different. Wawrinka settled quickly while Djokovic was serving brilliantly in the first set hardly missing a serve, No, he wasn't doing the Mats Wilander in 88 final style of just spinning it in to the point where he missed one serve.

Wawrinka played just one dumb service game where he donated a lot of errors and can't do that against Djokovic who took advantage and closed out the set. Ever since he hooked up with Magnus Norman who has done a superb job with him Wawrinka's self belief has increased and his forehand has improved to such a point it's just below the level of his backhand.

Djokovic's service percentage was dropping and giving Wawrinka more opportunities to break serve which he struggled to take initially. This matchup is infinitely more interesting than say Djokovic-Nadal or Djokovic-Murray. Wawrinka while he hits hard his groundstrokes are heavy which makes it difficult for Djokovic to absorb the pace and redirect the ball when he is defending which he can do easily against for example Berdych.

With their recent history Wawrinka knows what he needs to do and he is imposing his game on Djokovic more in the 2nd set to the point where Djokovic is retreating further and further behind the baseline. Wawrinka manages to take the 2nd set and has to ride the momentum train since Djokovic is the best defensive player on tour and if a player doesn't take the few opportunities offered then it's curtains.

Yes, they talk about the vital 7th game in a set but I think the 3rd set in a best of 5 set match is more important especially in a tight match like this one. Wawrinka is continuing with the huge hitting from both sides sometimes down the middle but working the angles making Djokovic covering more ground as he is further behind the baseline. Stani is a big unit and this big engine was rolling taking the 3rd with brilliant shotmaking.

Djokovic gets an early break in the 4th and thought this was chance to wrest some momentum from Wawrinka. This was a fleeting moment as Wawrinka didn't get down on himself and with maximum self belief in his ability continued with the combination of clutch play and brilliant shotmaking to take control breaking back quickly. Djokovic was just in full defensive mode as he couldn't handle the onslaught from Wawrinka who won the title fittingly with his signature backhand down the line winner.

A shout out to the animated Robbie Koenig who gave a Wawrinka big show before the match start while many thought that he was just there to play the role of the stooge in the crowning moment of Djokovic. Koenig made reference to the similarities between Guga in 97 with his huge game off both sides able to defeat the higher ranked and more credentialed Bruguera through imposing his game and executing the plan perfectly which pretty much what happened in the final.


This will be a very tough loss for him to endure since he has clearly been the best player this year and also during the clay season but he failed to win the one title that his year is based around. As I said in the preview this is always going to be the challenge for him to find the right mental balance to win the title here. I do hope it doesn’t become similar to the Ivan Lendl situation at Wimbledon.

Frustrated Djokovic

For all the histrionics he sometimes goes on with Djokovic is a very gracious loser which isn't always common in tennis. There was genuine warmth in the embrace with Wawrinka at the end and the Parisian crowd gave him a brilliant ovation. Yes, the Roland Garros crowd love to boo but that reaction reminded me of when Cedric Pioline lost the Davis Cup final tie at home against The Poo. Even though both lost they showed a lot of themselves in difficult moments and the crowd appreciated it.

As for the performance in the final Djokovic after the 1st set was a bit too passive when he is at his best the other player is running like mad and the changes of direction drive them mad while not being able to hit through him. In this final the better attacking player triumphed over the better defender.

Other points

Tsonga and Monfils while they aren't likely to win a Slam are very entertaining at Roland Garros and they thrive playing at home where there are other French players like Gasquet and Simon who are inhibited by the pressure. Tsonga had an excellent tournament not coming in with much form and managed to hand Nishikori a rare 5 set defeat which is always good.

Pablo Cuevas was involved in two of the best matches at the event. One of them which he won and the other he's still kicking himself at not getting it done. The Cuevas/Thiem match was excellent tennis all round some extended rallies where they were working the angles and prepared to use their quality single hand backhands. It was extra experience that got Cuevas over the line and this match showed some great signs for Thiem, if he keeps developing the right way I can see him holding up the RG crown in future.

What's Roland Garros without the Monfils show it's just part and parcel of the event. Cuevas up 2 sets 1 and 4-1 in the 4th them manages to lose 5 game in a row. The knock on Cuevas is the temperament which didn't hold up here but Monfils is an entertainer and when in the mood amongst the ludicrous baseline positioning can play some devastating tennis which got him the chocolates in this one. Then the last 2 sets against Federer show the other side of Monfils.


La Marseillaise for Gaël Monfils

Gabashvili good to see the Tsunami or as the Georgian who represents Russia, speaks Spanish has Guillermo Canas as coach and definitely playing above his average when it comes to his wife. He is a very different but entertaining cat.

This is a statement I made a few years ago and sticking to it. Kokkinakis aka The Kokk will have a better overall career than Kyrgios. Yes, Kyrgios loves the big stage and thrives on it but day in day out the Kokk will have better results. The Kokk can play on all surfaces as well as Kyrgios but his game is more technically sound and think over the long haul The Kokk be more durable with no Viagra required. Coric, Thiem along with these two are developing well not sure when the generational shift will happen but it’s coming.

Mahut and Becker in the 3rd round was this seasons trolling. Sadly, there was no epic Fognin trolling or antics which is a shame with his history at the event with Montanes and Monfils. Seppi was underdone and lost easily to Isner but the worst show was Kavčič losing to clay to Lu on clay. Yes, Kavčič was unsure of taking his place in the event after pulling up with a quad problem in the Rome qualies taking this into account one should never be standing 6m behind the baseline on clay against Lu. If that wasn't bad enough losing 2 sets 1 and 1 to a claycourt clown pretty much said it all. The one fall that is on par with the Kavčič show is Gubis's ranking.

Norwegian Tennis Lives

No, that sub heading isn't a misprint. Norwegian tennis might have a future ever since the very limited but determined warrior Christian Ruud reached number 39 and 4th round at the Aus Open. Norway had 2 players seeded in the juniors one of them happens to be Christian's son Casper (16) who is based in Spain and unfortunately Nadal is his zero.

Ruud and Durasovic

The other one Viktor Durasovic (18) a Trondheim lad who has won 2 Futures titles this year. Both are based in Spain which makes since Norway doesn't have the tennis tradition or facilities to get any talented players through to the professional ranks and be successful. Junior results are nice but it counts for nowt on the seniors and hope they make the transition.

On that note it wasn’t the most interesting or bizarre Roland Garros but it had enough good moments. Nadal isn’t champion and the Djokovic/Paris question is still going. Yes, I think Djokovic will win Roland Garros one day and complete the career Slam when he is mentally ready to do so. On this day he was second best to Saint-Barthélemy's finest and Roland Garros champion Stani Wawrinka.

P.S Wawrinka's shorts will get its own entry in the Hall of Fame.


Martine said...

This is one super write up! (not that I would have expected otherwise from you hehe)
Great match report and I couldn't be happier with the outcome of the tournament!
Way to go Stani! You deserve it!


Denys said...

Very enjoyable write up it definitely helps that Nadal didn't win as we have seen that story so many times before.

Wawrinka just turned on the power and style that he rendered Djokovic helpless on this occasion. Hopefully Roland Garros can go back to how it was before the Nadal era of a more open Slam.