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US Open champion Stan Wawrinka aims to go on and reach new heights

By Paul Newman

Published 13/09/2016

Room with a view: Stan Wawrinka takes a selfie at the ‘Top of the Rock’ at New York’s Rockefeller Center yesterday
Room with a view: Stan Wawrinka takes a selfie at the ‘Top of the Rock’ at New York’s Rockefeller Center yesterday

The 'Top of the Rock', an observation deck 65 storeys up the Rockefeller Centre here in the middle of Manhattan, was an appropriate place for Stan Wawrinka to reflect on the remarkable events of the evening before.

A night of celebrations after his US Open final victory over Novak Djokovic had not left the 31-year-old Swiss feeling on top of the world at that moment, but the view across New York on a glorious September day - as well as the sight of his trophy sitting on a table in front of him - clearly raised his spirits.

Asked what he had felt on waking up the morning after his 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory, Wawrinka said: "That I was tired. I had not had enough sleep. I was really tired. But it's a special feeling for sure. For me it was more about the memory of the match. It was a crazy match."

Wawrinka's third Grand Slam title, which puts him level with Andy Murray and leaves him knowing that a victory at Wimbledon would see him become only the ninth man in history to win all four of the sport's major trophies, came in a final that lasted nearly four hours and at the end of a tournament he described as the toughest he had ever played.

Djokovic had been the player who, controversially, took two medical time-outs in the fourth set for treatment to his toes, but Wawrinka had been in physical pain too having started cramping in the third set.

However, the world No.3 followed the advice of his coach, Magnus Norman, who had told him not to give Djokovic any sign of any physical problems. Wawrinka had done the same in his earlier victories over Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori.

"I was focusing, trying not to show anything," he said. "I was trying to be even tougher with myself. I knew it was really important again. We all know how good Novak is and from the little things you give he will take and he will bite it.

"I knew he would also struggle. It's always a tough match when we play. It's physical and it's not easy with the long rallies that I'm playing, so I was just focusing on not showing anything.

"You don't want to give him any reason to think: 'Ah, maybe I should stay because he's also starting to be tired.' It was one of the keys of the match."

Wawrinka was diplomatic about Djokovic's medical time-outs, which Patrick McEnroe, commentating on ESPN, described as "complete abuse of the rules".

There has long been a view that some players use medical time-outs as a way of taking a breather or disrupting their opponent's momentum.

"I think sometimes some players abuse the rules for sure, but I think also you need to understand that sometimes you have real pain," Wawrinka said.

Norman calmed Wawrinka down in the locker room, where he had been crying and shaking with nerves just five minutes before going out on to Arthur Ashe Stadium.

"That was something really special," Wawrinka said. "From yesterday morning onwards I was really nervous, but somehow we found something. You can feel the confidence in him. He brings out your self-confidence. Before the match it was really difficult for me."

The "Big Four" of Djokovic, Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have won 42 of the last 47 Grand Slam titles and 53 of the last 58 Masters Series events.

But in the time Wawrinka has won his three Grand Slam titles, Federer has won none and Murray and Nadal just one each.

Under Norman's guidance, Wawrinka has now won 11 finals in a row. In the last three years, moreover, he has been the only player to get the better of Djokovic more than once at Grand Slam level, having also beaten the world No.1 en route to his triumph at the 2014 Australian Open and in the final of last year's French Open.

"I've really surprised myself," he said. "My only goal when I started was to be a professional tennis player, to maybe one day play the French Open.

"When I started to be better and better, my goal - and it's one that I still have - was not to regret anything. That's why I am still trying to do everything to improve."

Belfast Telegraph

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