Day-14. 2016 US Open

Sunday started with a remarkable come-from-behind victory for Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova. The 12-seeds upset the hottest tandem on the WTA Tour, earning their 3rd career Grand Slam doubles title together. A rewarding victory for Bethanie and Lucie, who’ve both dealt with nagging injuries throughout the season. They now own five titles together – three of them Slams.

See the Championship Match Closing Ceremony

See the Championship Match Closing Ceremony

Stan Wawrinka is now a 3-time Grand Slam Champion. Like Bethanie and Lucie, he’s now one Wimbledon title away from the Career Grand Slam. Like Saturday’s Champion, Angelique Kerber, Stan Wawrinka is a “blue-collar champion.” While his weapons are potent – especially that signature backhand – it’s his work-ethic and determination that stand-out. He and Kerber find themselves winning Slams not through physical superiority or superhuman, raw talent; they’re winning Slams because they’ve committed themselves to do the work necessary to put themselves in positions to win every unique match – from fitness to mental clarity and attitude.

Success has bred confidence has bred success: Kerber’s now won two Slams in a single season; Stan’s won three in 3-years. They are both peaking late in their careers. On Monday, Angelique will become the eldest player in WTA history to maker her World #1 debut. At 31-years-old, Stan became the oldest US Open Men’s Champion since Ken Rosewall won the title at age-35 in 1970.

[3] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) def [1] Novak Djokovic (SRB)

Final 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. Before Sunday, Stan Wawrinka had only won 4 of his 23 matches with the World #1, but the last two had been big ones. In 2014, he defeated Novak in the Australian Open Quarterfinals (9-7 in the 5th) and went on to win his first Grand Slam title. A year later at Roland Garros, he defeated Novak in the Championship match. With his four-set win over Novak on Sunday, the 31-year-old is now one Wimbledon Championship away from owning the Career Grand Slam. Huge.

Novak Djokovic hasn’t had the best Summer. He fell early at Wimbledon, then lost to Juan Martin Del Potro in Round-1 of the Olympic Games in Rio. A run to the Final here in Flushing is an encouraging one after the wrist injury in Rio and the struggles he’s faced through the Summer.

Stan has now won his last 11 consecutive Finals. He’s a three-time Grand Slam Champion, defeating Novak twice in Major Finals. Meanwhile, Novak still owns 12 Grand Slam titles; two this year alone.

SET-1

Stan Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka

Sure didn’t seem like Stan would win this one at ball up. 10-minutes into the match, Novak was up 3-0. Wawrinka lost a tough deuce battle to go down a break, then marched back to his seat scoreless after a backhand whiff on Novak’s serve.

Down 1-4, Stan fell behind 0-30, got it to deuce, then had to erase another break point before finally managing the hold. Novak was winning service games at love. Stan had to work his ass off for every point.

Down 2-5, Stan kept missing. It was uncomfortable. Even the all-reliable backhand was spraying shots long. He fell behind 15-40, but got it back to deuce.

Suddenly the backhand found the baseline. He spanked a forehand for a clean winner up the line. Stan got it to 5-3, and finally found his rhythm.

With Novak serving for the set, Stan kept pounding the ball. Djokovic fell behind 0-40; a double fault at 30-40 handed-back Stan’s break. We were on serve, Wawrinka surging.

His first-serve finally landing, Stan scored his first easy hold of the match, and we were lvel at 5-all.

Next thing you knew, this went from a 3-0 shelacking to a first-set tie-break; a tie-break that featured some of the most memorable points of this year’s Open. Novak may have won it 7-1…but Stan wasn’t going anywhere.

SET-2

Stan Wawrinka broke to go up 3-1, then immediately fell behind 0-40. Ouch. Improbably, he erased all three break points, earned the ad with an ace, then pumped a forehand winner past the World #1 to consolidate the break. This was the Stan we expected in his 3rd career Grand Slam Final.

Undeterred, Novak would win the next three games and level the set at 4-all.

After an easy hold from Stan, Novak fell behind 15-40 serving to stay in the set. He got it to 30-40 with a brilliant approach and volley at the net, but handed the set over with a forehand wide. Code violation. Racquet abuse. Djokovic.

SET-3

Stan started set-3 down 15-40. This was becoming all too familiar. Wawrinka erased both break-points and quickly earned the ad. Two deuces and an ace later, he was on the board.

Down 30-40 in game-2, Novak got agressive. The serve and volley was exectued perfectly, but so were Stan’s responding ground-strokes. Novak sent a volley wide and Stan found himself up a break.

See the Championship Match Walk-On

See the Championship Match Walk-On

Game-3 saw Stan’s second double-fault. He too fell behind 30-40, but got it deuce, earned the ad, played AMAZING defense, and ripped a signature backhand past the World #1 to take a 3-0 lead to the changeover.

Novak failed to put away three overheads in game-4, and paid the price. Down 0-30, he fought back, finally crushing an overhead to reach 30-all. Arthur Ashe Stadium erupted into chorus: “Nole! Nole! Nole!” Two points later, Novak was on the board.

Up 3-1, Stan jumped out to a 30-love lead. Novak battled to take it to deuce. Two hours and 20-minutes into the match, sloppy unforced errors started creeping into decisive points. On Novak’s second advantage, a Stan forehand clipped the top of the net and bounced back. We were back on serve.

Moving on, both comfortably held through the next two changeovers. Down 4-5, Novak served to stay in the set without losing a single point. By all appreances, set-3 was also going the distance.

At 5-6, serving to keep the set alive again, Novak found himself down an AD, facing set-point right as the match hit the three-hour mark. He sailed a slice backhand wide, and Stan Wawrinka was suddenly one set away from a 3-0 record in Grand Slam Finals.

SET-4

Stan began with a hold. Novak started cramping. Down a break, if Djokovic wasn’t screaming into a towel, he was stretching his quadriceps. In just over 10-minutes, Stan was up 3-0 and a mere 3-games away from his third Grand Slam title in 3-years.

After three hours of play, Stan was clearly the fitter of the two on the court. Analysts leaned on the what-if’s of Novak’s wrist injury from Rio…the shoulder-trouble trainers tweaked in his Semifinal with Monfils. Whatever the issue, you can’t take away the fact that Stan was rag-dolling Novak all over the court.

Down 0-3, Novak fell-behind 30-40 with his 5th double fault. He’d overcome to put his first game on the board…then receive the most unusual of medical time-outs BEFORE the changeover. He had blisters on both big toes. Novak to Stan after five-minutes of the MTO: “Stan, I couldn’t stand it. I’m sorry.” Many were asking the same thing Stan was left asking: Why not take the MTO before your own serve?…On a regular changeover?

Hmmm.

Down 30-40 in the next game, Stan got it to deuce by pounding a deep forehand and finishing at the net. Djokovic would gain the first advantage. Choruses of “Nole!” were met with corresponding boos. Djokovic gained another AD with a forehand winner up Stan’s right wing. An unforced error gave Stan AD #3, he then crushed a forehand up the line to maintain his lead (4-1). So much for #Toegate.

Down 2-5, Novak received another medical time-out before serving to stay in the match. All that court sliding had obviously caught up with him. After the break, Novak did his part – comfortably serving to stay in the match.

Now it was Stan’s turn to deliver the win on his own racquet. Two errant shots put him down 0-30. The chorus of “Nole!” returned. Stan was unflappable. He won the next two points going away. Novak dumped a forehand into the net, and we were at match point, Wawrinka.

Novak took it to deuce. At this point fans were pleading for a break from the World #1, but Stan’s placement was simply TOO GOOD. Wawrinka ran Novak all over the court and earned match point #2 with a gentle poke at the net. At 3-hours and 55-minutes, Novak sent a backhand long and Stan Wawrinka became a US Open Champion.

Big Match Stan.

[12] Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) / Lucie Safarova (CZE) def [1] Caroline Garcia (FRA) / Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)

Final 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic are the hottest tandem on the WTA Tour. Lucie Safarova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands earned that distinction last year.

In their first season together, Caroline and Kristina have been nearly unbeatable. They reached the Final in Sydney, the Final in Dubai, then earned their first career title over Mattek-Sands and Safarova in Charleston. With wins in both singles and doubles, the pair (just the two of them) lifted France into the Fed Cup Final this November. They then went on to win titles in Stuttgart and Madrid, before winning their first Grand Slam title together at Roland Garros.

Bethanie and Lucie had a similar season in 2015. They won both the Australian Open and Roland Garros and earned a spot in the WTA Finals by capturing four titles in a single season. Their only Final together this year came in Charleston, where they fell to Garcia and Mladenovic 2-6, 5-7.

SET-1

Lucie Safarova / Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Lucie Safarova / Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Complete court coverage. With Kristina’s wing-span and Caroline’s athleticism, the two get everything back. They’re big servers, too. When up a break, they protect it. In fact, they haven’t lost a single set through the entire Open.

When the French opened with a break on Sunday, Bethanie and Lucie knew they were in trouble. Garcia and Mladenovic blew it open in game-5, breaking Mattek-Sands for the second time. Lucie and Bethanie hung-tough, picked-up their first two break-points of the match, but couldn’t convert behind a pair of booming serves from Garcia.

The pressure was on early – Safarova serving just to stay in the set. Down 0-15, Bethanie poached and poked; and with her aggressive play at the net, last year’s hottest pair put another game on the board. But that would be it for set-1 – Kristina’s first serves were too hot to handle. The French were a set away from their second Grand Slam title of 2016.

SET-2

Bethanie and Lucie swapped to start the second, with Safarova serving first. Some of the best highlights of the match came in game-1, both teams scrambling; Bethanie and Lucie earned the hold.

Truth is, set-2 was a hell of a display of doubles technique and reflex. Bethanie and Lucie had elevated their play, Kristina and Caroline were still clocking serves and crushing the short-ball. It was 3-all half-way.

At 4-all, Lucie fell behind 15-40. At 30-40, Garcia rocketed a forehand winner from the baseline, earning the set’s first break – giving herself a chance to serve for the Championship. Timely break. Tantalizing tennis.

Bethanie and Lucie weren’t about to go away quietly. They took full-advantage of Garcia’s nerves. Caroline was tentative, couldn’t get a first serve to fall, and Bethanie and Lucie broke at love. All level 5-all.

In rhythm, Bethanie then jumped out to a 40-0 lead, easily earning the hold at 40-15. The French went from serving for the win – to serving just to stay in the set.

Kristina had been “the rock” on serve throughout the match. Like Caoline in her previous service-game, pressure plagued that pounding first serve. Bathanie and Lucie earned set-point at 30-40 – Kristina erased it with lightning-fast reflexes at the net. Three points later, we were headed for the tie-break.

In the tie-break, Lucie opened on serve. Bethanie picked up the first point with a winning stab at the net. A Mladenovic mishit gave Mattek-Sands and Safarova the early mini-break, but the French would immediately score a mini-break of their own to get it back on serve. After the change of ends, Lucie and Bethanie jumped ahead 4-3, then 5-3 and 6-3 behind Lucie’s serve. Two set-points later, we were on to a decider.

SET-3

Garcia served to start the third, and immediately fell behind 15-40. After a long-rally at 30-40, Garcia mishit a routine baseline forehand and gifted Lucie and Bethanie with the early lead. Lucie consolidated with a hold at love.

Up 4-3, Bethanie serving, Lucie Safarova put on an absolute clinic at the net, leaving the two leaping into each other’s arms as the score flipped to 5-3. They were a game away from their third Grand Slam title…

Serving to stay in the match, if Caroline Garcia felt the same nerves she felt while serving for the match in set-2, she didn’t let it show. That pounding first-serve was back…the Championship now on Lucie Safarova’s racquet.

Pure poise and confidence, Safarova calmly served it to double match point, 40-15. The French saved the first one, but a mishit on a soft serve deep to Garcia’s backhand gave the championship to Lucie and Bethanie. They are now a Wimbledon Championship away from the Career Grand Slam in doubles. Huge.