Sunday, June 7, 2015

Reflecting Upon the French Open Men's Final

Heading into Sunday's Roland Garros men's final it appeared the story was already written.  Novak Djokovic had already knocked off the seemingly more dangerous Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, and would defeat the less accomplished Stan Wawrinka on his way to capturing the career Grand Slam.  Djokovic had barely lost all season, and Wawrinka had been up and down all year.  Instead, Wawrinka flipped the script by playing one of the best matches of his career.  Wawrinka's punishing ground strokes off both sides were in full effect, and it was the Swiss who dictated play.

There was some cause for concern heading in for the world number one, as Djokovic's semifinal match against Murray had to be continued to Saturday.  (Why the French Open doesn't have any lights is an issue for another day, but it's clearly time the this tournament joins the current century and adds lights, hawkeye replay, etc if not a roof).  Without the typical day off in between matches Djokovic was at a higher risk of becoming fatigued, but most people thought the quick 5th set meant Djokovic wouldn't suffer any lingering effects. 

Instead, Djokovic appeared a bit flat and seemed content to let Wawrinka be the aggressor.  Had Djokovic not given back the break in the 4th set this strategy may have worked, as it would have been tough for Wawrinka to sustain such a high level of play in the 5th set.  But Wawrinka rediscovered his zone just in time towards the end of the 4th set, and Djokovic was unable to extend the match. 

Following his incredible run in Paris Wawrinka is now a two-time grand slam champion, and will forever avoid the "dreaded" one-slam wonder label.  Before Sunday Wawrinka could have been lumped in with the likes of Thomas Johansson, Gaston Gaudio, Albert Costa and a host of other seemingly random one-time grand slam champions, but tennis has always viewed winners of multiple majors in a different light.  Wawrinka may not post the results throughout the year that one would expect of a two-time grand slam champion, but at the end of the day he'll always have (at least) two grand slam titles to his name. 

Going forward, Djokovic will likely continue to dominate the tour, and Wawrinka will most likely continue to be somewhat inconsistent.  However, for a few hours on Sunday tennis fans were once again treated to a dazzling display of tennis by the supremely talented Wawrinka.  Everyone else may have been focused on Djokovic making history, but Wawrinka ignored the distractions and simply played some of the highest quality tennis we've seen all year.

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