Stan Wawrinka wins US Open to join Andy Murray on three titles
Resilient Swiss star refuses to buckle under pressure as he beats Novak Djokovic to win his 11th final in a row
After overpowering Novak Djokovic to win the US Open and claim his third Grand Slam title, Stan Wawrinka now has the same number of majors as Andy Murray, although the Scot has played in 11 finals to Wawrinka's three.
The 31-year-old Swiss player emerged victorious in New York in just under four hours, refusing to be put off by two long medical time-outs for his opponent. The final score was 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
But Wawrinka's success had little to do with Djokovic's problems and everything to do with his own resilience. "When it comes to sheer bullish strength and a determination to overcome the odds stacked against him, Wawrinka has few peers," says Barry Flatman of The Times. He is "a big-match player" and overcame Djokovic "with a performance that once more underlined his strength and determination".
He may have struggled in the earlier rounds, and saved a match point against Briton Dan Evans, "but like a reveller who only comes awake after midnight, Wawrinka shows a different side of himself in finals", says Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph. Indeed he has twice come from a set down against Djokovic in a Grand Slam final and Briggs points out that the Serb has only ever lost four matches at Grand Slams after winning the first set.
While Murray can be his own worst enemy, as his quarterfinal meltdown against Kei Nishikori proved, Wawrinka appears to relish pressure. The Swiss has triumphed in all three of his Grand Slam finals and has won each of his past 11 finals at all tournaments.
His latest victory has even prompted calls for the Big Four of men's tennis to be rebranded.
"Wawrinka's third Grand Slam title demands that he be discussed along with the big four of men’s tennis: Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. Since the 2005 French Open, that group has been responsible for 42 of the 47 Grand Slam tournament titles," says Barbara Baker of New York newspaper Newsday.
But the Swiss has achievements to match theirs. "At 31, Wawrinka is the oldest male US Open champion since 35-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1970 and only the fifth man in the Open era to win more than one major tournament after turning 30, following Rosewall, Rod Laver, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors," says the BBC. "He now needs the Wimbledon title to complete a clean sweep of the Grand Slams."
However, he was modest after his triumph and dismissed comparisons with the likes of Murray, who has 12 Masters 1000 tournament titles to Wawrinka's one.
"If you look, yes, I have three Grand Slams. How many Masters 1000 has Murray? They have been there ten years," he said. "They have not only been winning, but being in semi-finals, final every time. That's why I'm not there."
US Open: Murray melts down after bizarre 'gong' incident
Andy Murray's hopes of adding the US Open title to his Wimbledon and Olympic crowns are over after he lost a five-set thriller to Japan's Kei Nishikori in the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was an absorbing encounter, not without controversy, that ended with the British number one beaten 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in three hours 57 minutes of tense tennis. And Murray didn't go quietly, smashing his racket into the net at one point and suffering what the New York Post described as another "meltdown".
"It was too exciting on the court, but I tried to stay calm," said Nishikori, runner-up in the 2014 US Open. "In the beginning I didn't start well - he has a great return - but I finished well. The rain delay helped me to change tactics. I tried to hit a few more drop-shots than usual today and it worked really well."
The rain delay did indeed prove decisive, allowing sixth seed Nishikori the chance to alter his tactics while Murray's rhythm was shattered as play resumed under the roof. The Scot gradually began to lose his cool after the restart, and two incidents in particular affected him: first when the stadium sound system interrupted a break point and then when a butterfly began dancing around the net. Both distractions played on Murray's mind and his opponent took full advantage, turning round a 2-1 set deficit by taking the last two sets of the match.
As the New York Times reports, the Arthur Ashe roof has become a serious source of contention at the US Open with many players believing its closure "creates slower conditions because of increased humidity and an absence of wind". This works to the advantage of those smaller players, such as Nishikori, and to the disadvantage of bigger-serving players like Murray.
Murray was still fuming post-match, telling reporters why he'd been so angry with Flushing Meadow's faulty sound system (or what officials described as as "digital audio sound processor" malfunction).
"When we stopped the point at break point at the beginning of the fourth set, it was the fourth time it had happened in the match and the first time we had stopped the point," said Murray.
The sound, likened to a dinner gong by the New York Post, prompted chair umpire Marija Cicak to call a let although as Murray pointed out she had ignored previous similar noises. Murray complained about the decision and then lost three straight points, and the game, and ultimately the match.
"Murray wound up losing 12 of 14 points right after the let call and seven games in a row to drop that set 6-1 and trail 2-0 in the fifth," notes the Post.
The defeat brings to an end his career-best run of seven straight tournament finals but more significantly ends the 29-year-old's hopes becoming only the fourth man since the Open era began in 1968 to reach all four major finals in a calendar year.
Nishikori's reward for beating Murray is a semi-final clash with Stan Wawrinka while in the other last four tie defending champion Novak Djokovic will face Gael Monfils of France.
Tsonga quits as Djokovic makes US Open semis in nine sets
Novak Djokovic came into the US Open under an injury cloud, yet it is his opponents who have been dropping like flies. The world number one beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows after his opponent, who was trailing by two sets, withdrew from their quarter final with a knee injury.
It means that the Serb has reached his tenth US Open semi-final in a row after winning just two matches and will only need to win 14 sets of tennis to claim the title. The usual figure is 21.
After looking nervous and vulnerable in the first round against Jerzy Janowicz, Djokovic has enjoyed an extraordinary passage to the last four. His second round opponent Jiri Vesely pulled out before the match while Mikhail Youzhny bailed out of their third round match after just six games.
Briton Kyle Edmund did his best, but was swept aside in three sets, while Djokovic's quarter-final opponent Tsonga limped off court after losing the first two sets.
It means that Djokovic has played less than six-and-a-half hours of tennis to make the semi finals and has had plenty of time to work on his injured wrist. He is well aware of his good fortune.
"This was the scenario that I needed and I wished for," he said after defeating Tsonga. "I got a lot of days off and recovered my body. Right now I'm feeling very close to the peak. That's the position where I want to be."
But good news for Djokovic is bad news for his rivals, including Andy Murray.
"The worry for the Serb's rivals, starting with his semi-final opponent Gael Monfils on Friday, is that his extra freshness will allow him to play the devastatingly effective attritional game that has been the platform for his ascent to the top of the sport," says Charlie Eccleshare of the Daily Telegraph.
"Of course all Djokovic can do is take advantage of his good fortune, and he should and will make no apologies for the questionable fitness of some of his opponents."
Djokovic's year had threatened to come off the rails after a shock third round defeat to Sam Querry at Wimbledon, his tearful exit from the Olympics at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro, a wrist injury that kept him out of the Cincinnati Masters and the surprise admission that he was struggling with "private issues".
"The doubts that persist about Novak Djokovic's mental and physical fitness at this US Open are no less intact... but at the present rate it's unclear how much they will matter," says Bryan Armen Graham of The Guardian.
"The defending champion is into the last four having played a total of 84 games – and only nine complete sets – with less time spent on court (6hr 26min) than most transatlantic flights."
The only silver lining for his opponents is the possibility of ring rust. Djokovic has completed only 11 matches since the French Open, but claims that the lack of action has allowed him to fully recharge his batteries.
Awesome Andy Murray destroys Grigor Dimitrov at the US Open
Andy Murray destroyed Grigor Dimitrov in two hours of blistering tennis on Monday night to reach the last eight of the US Open. The Scot blasted the bewildered Bulgarian off the Flushing Meadow court, winning in straight sets and sending down the fastest serve of his life.
Of the nine aces Murray delivered, one was clocked at 141mph, which as the Olympic champion later explained, "is the fastest serve I've hit". He added: "I served one at 145 [mph] in San Jose [in 2007] and the next day they recalibrated the gun because it was completely wrong."
Murray was modest in describing his cannonball serve as "luck" but his opponents will see the speed as further evidence that the world's number two is in the form of his life. Having reached the final of the French Open and won the Wimbledon and Olympic titles this year, Murray now has his sights set on a second US title, to go with the one he lifted in 2012.
"Tactically I played a good match,” reflected Murray. “I served very well when I got behind, made very few unforced errors. I enjoy it in here, fantastic atmosphere. Tonight is the first night it’s been a little bit windy."
Dimitrov beat Murray in Miami in their only previous encounter this year, but the 25-year-old was blown away on Monday night, winning only five games as the Briton cruised to a 6-1 6-2 6-2 win. He now faces Japan's Kei Nishikori in the quarter-final, the runner-up at the 2014 US Open, who battled past Ivo Karlovic to earn his place in the last eight.
“Kei has been to the final here, we’ve had bunch of tough matches," said Murray. "I played a good match against him a few weeks ago [in the Olympic semi-finals] and I’ll need to play like that again.”
Should Murray beat Nishikori he'll play either Juan Martin del Potro or Stan Wawrinka, while in the other half of the draw defending champion Novak Djokovic finds himself surrounded by Frenchmen. He faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in tomorrow's quarter-final and, if successful, he'll face either Gael Monfils or Lucas Pouille
US Open: Novak Djokovic beats Kyle Edmund, but is he fully fit?
Andy Murray is the only Briton left in the US Open after Kyle Edmund was sent packing by world number one Novak Djokovic, who showed the 21-year-old Englishman that he still has some way to go before he can challenge the very best on the circuit.
However, the fourth round defeat was no disgrace for Edmund, who will move up to 55 in the world, two places behind Dan Evans, who lost to Stan Wawrinka over the weekend.
"British tennis is improving – but there is a way to go," says Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian. "That gulf was evident for most of Sunday night's match. Edmund went blow for blow with the world number one from the start, but got a little over-eager in the hitting war and Djokovic broke in the third game."
From then on it was relatively straightforward for Djokovic, until his ongoing injury problems flared up again and he needed medical attention to his right arm in the third set. But after dropping serve to Edmund he regrouped an emerged winner in three sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
Djokovic may have taught Edmund "a thing or two about life in the rarified atmosphere of a Grand Slam's last 16", says Barry Flatman of The Times, but "distinct question marks about the world number one's fitness emerged in the third set".
"Djokovic insisted after the match that he felt no pain in his right arm but for the second time this tournament it received a highly strenuous massage. But with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga awaiting in the quarter-final on Tuesday evening, it is clear things are still not completely right."
However, with number four seed Rafa Nadal also out after losing in five sets to Frenchman Lucas Pouille last night, Djokovic must be favourite to make the final, where he could face Andy Murray, who is in action against Gregor Dimitrov tonight.
The Bulgarian is now coached by Dani Vallverdu, a former member of Murray's entourage, who has begun to harness his talent in a positive way.
"By common consensus in the tennis world, Dimitrov should be a top-five player with a major or two to his name," says Flatman of the Times. "However, he has become better-known for the celebrity status of his girlfriends than his achievements on court."
But he is a real threat to Murray having beaten him earlier this year and also at Wimbledon in 2014.
"Vallverdu will have a surfeit of valuable information to impart to Dimitrov before the battle for a quarter-final place takes place in the Arthur Ashe Stadium. And Dimitrov himself has perfect first-hand knowledge of not just how to beat Murray on an American hard court but also how to rattle him," says Flatman.
Andy Murray leads three Britons into third round of US Open
There will be three British men in the third round of the US Open for the first time since 1968 after Andy Murray and Dan Evans joined Kyle Edmund, who booked his place on Wednesday in the last 32.
Second seed Murray overcame Marcel Granollers of Spain in straight sets at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, but had to deal with more than just his opponent as he played the first full match under the new roof at Flushing Meadow, just as he had at Wimbledon in 2009.
Britain's number one saw off his opponent "with ease despite not being able to hear the ball being hit, so loud was the sound of torrential rain hammering down on the new roof", says Barry Flatman of The Times. "Noise is invariably an issue at the US Open but usually it comes from vociferous spectators or the jet engines of airliners landing and taking off from New York's adjacent La Guardia Airport. This time it was the rain."
Murray admitted the weather had been unsettling. "It was tough because you couldn't really hear the ball at all and players like to do that. We use our ears when we play, it's not just the eyes," he said.
"I've played under the Wimbledon roof a few times and also at the Australian Open, but with all this noise, it was a new experience."
Murray's triumph was matched by Evans, who "is on the verge of cracking the top 50 after a thrilling four-set victory over Alexander Zverev, the lanky German teenager who has been tipped as a future world number one", says Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph.
While the Brummie had said he was fearful of Zverev's power hitting, "in the decisive moments it tended to be Evans himself who went for the jugular", adds Briggs. "The fourth set, in particular, found him delivering audacious winners from all parts of the court."
"Paul Hutchins, Roger Taylor and Peter Curtis were the last three British players to make the third round of the US Open in the same year, in 1968," recalls the BBC. It remains to be seen if this year's crop can all make it into the fourth round.
The last 32 sees Edmund take on John Isner, the world number 43 playing in his home Grand Slam, Murray face Italian Paolo Lorenzi and Evans play Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.
Johanna Konta is the last British woman left in the tournament after Naomi Broady was beaten in straight sets by fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Konta, who collapsed during her second-round win over Tsvetana Pironkova, faces Belinda Bencic today.