Act Fifteen – Stan’s the Man! Wawrinka shakes up the “Top 4” after winning his maiden US Open title

The Hawthorne effect, the alteration of behavior due to subject’s awareness of being observed, as Ankit talked about it, is prevalent not only in Presidential politics, but in sports as well. However, there was no such tangible impact of this phenomenon in yesterday’s enthralling US Open Men’s singles Final.

All Stanislas Wawrinka did, was look to the heavens at the end of the 9th game in the 4th set of the 2016 US Open final on Sunday. There were no hurrahs. No tears of joy. No real outpouring of pent up emotions. Even the smallest hint of a palatable smile on his face could not be detected.

There was just relief. Plain relief. Followed by a heartfelt embrace of his fallen compatriot standing on the other side of the net. Novak Djokovic’s 46th unforced error on the night had just gifted Wawrinka his third Grand Slam title – he won the Australian Open in 2014 and the French Open in 2015. The 31 year old Swiss sensation now also holds the distinction of being the only active male tennis player to win two Grand Slam titles above the age of 30.

After losing the first set through a tie breaker, Wawrinka broke Djokovic’s serve at crucial junctures in the 2nd and the 3rd sets to establish a 2-1 lead heading into the fourth set. Stan raced to a 3-0 lead in the 4th before a bit of gamesmanship by his opponent halted his incessant charge to his maiden US Open title. Djokovic, clearly struggling with blisters, took a couple of extended medical time outs in the 4th set to cause a significant delay in proceedings.

After a few anxious service games that followed, the burly Swiss held his nerve to eventually emerge victorious after 3 hours 54 minutes of grueling tennis in the Arthur Ashe stadium. Interestingly, Wawrinka has won every Grand Slam final he has participated in thus far (Played 3, Won 3). His calm and composed demeanour helps him overcome the crushing pressure of performing at the biggest stage of all.

Wawrinka’s US Open triumph may have bigger implications for men’s tennis as a whole. Stan’s third Grand Slam title in three years has ensured that the much fabled “Top 4” grouping of men’s tennis (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray) has been well and truly shaken up. The quartet have dominated men’s tennis over the past 12 years, winning 42 of the past 47 Grand Slams. However, Wawrinka’s latest Grand Slam triumph puts him at par with Andy Murray (2 Wimbledon, 1 US Open), both having won 3 titles each.

“Stan Wawrinka deserves to be in ‘big five'”, said Djokovic after losing to Wawrinka last night. “He plays best in the big matches and definitely deserves to be mentioned in the mix of top players”. Djokovic is spot on. Except, the “top 4” only exists only on paper.

While age has hampered Federer’s quest to win his record breaking 18th Grand Slam title, a chronic knee problem has halted Rafael Nadal’s relentless charge towards overtaking Pete Sampras in the all time list. While Nadal’s latest title triumph came at the French Open in 2014, it has been 4 years since Federer last won a Grand Slam (Wimbledon 2012).

While Wawrinka’s US Open win might not have sealed his place among the pantheon of modern tennis greats, it has firmly secured his legacy as a graceful and humble champion – one who finally emerged from the shadow of his more illustrious Swiss compatriot in the fall of 2016.

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