Quick Note from Jonathan: Hey all, I wasn't planning on doing a specific post on Stan the Man's win today but fortunately Sid has stepped up to the plate and put together some thoughts on the final.
I watched virtually all of it and for a set and a half it was some epic play from Stan but after Nadal's injury things tailed off from both guys. I'm just glad Stan managed to hold himself together and take home the title after Nadal won the third set, he's had a great tournament and his win is testament to how well he has progressed in the last year. In some ways he was the nearly man of tennis with a lot of firepower but now he's joined the Grand Slam club and basically stepped out of Roger's shadow. Somewhat crazily he's now at 3 in the world and the new Swiss number 1. Who would have thought that would be the case a month into the season? Anyway take it away Sid…
Totally out of left field
He had never beaten the opponent he was going to face, and entered the final with with five straight losses. Nobody gave him a chance. And for two sets, it looked like that would be the case. A couple of loose shots from his opponent and a debatable line call later, things turned, and he eventually prevailed over his much more celebrated rival, the GOAT, Roger Federer.
Stan Wawrinka though, had no plans of making things that dramatic. The opening point, which lasted about a dozen shots, would define the rest of the match. During that point, Nadal looped one to Wawrinka's backhand, and was hit cross court with such authority, that it set up Stan for the remainder of the point. But this is not a match report. This is about celebrating Stanislas, Roger's Swiss compatriot, and by extension a favorite of all Roger Federer fans.
Stan could do no wrong. His serving and returning were crisp. He was playing quick strike tennis and taking time away from Nadal's forehand. The backhand cross courts were fantastic but the shot that must have played on Nadal's mind throughout the match, was the backhand down the line. Watch Nadal serving a 1-4, 30-15. Stan stays with the backhand cross court, opens up the court, and follows up with a phenomenal down the line.
Stan was telling Nadal, “I'm here Rafa, all night if you need me. I refuse to be bullied by you.”. And Nadal knew it. Stan's volleys were a treat. Take a look at the point where he was serving at 4-1, 15-0 in the first set. The volleying was so crisp, Nadal wasn't being given a second look.
But let's get some facts straight. Stan arrived on center court, having lost all of his 12 matches against the Spaniard. And if that wasn't bad enough, he had failed to win a single set all that time. How could he possibly turn this around? He was scarred by a tough fifth set defeat at the hands of Djokovic, at the last US Open. And another one he suffered at the last Australian Open. He was their bunny. Their punching bag. But it all changed. He went right through the World No.2, and then the world No. 1.
People often associate fighting qualities with Nadal, and we will get to that in a bit, but what about Stan? How can you possibly come back from a hole that deep? From being pummelled so bad by the Big 2? From the absolute depths of despair? This is a big comeback, even bigger than all of Nadal's wins in 2013 put together.
What's with Nadal and his gamesmanship?
All this talk about Nadal not having played at his best, is a whole lot of baloney. Nadal played as well as he could for a set, and Wawrkina was out of the world. Everything was going well, serve, backhand cross court was SICK! He hit some ridiculous down the line backhands, and was playing first strike tennis, taking time away from the Nadal forehand. Deep inside, Nadal knew that it would be impossible to win a 14th Slam, if Stan's form doesn't dip.
The opening point of the second set is a great example. Nadal was moving, loading, and hitting well, and yet Stan found a way to win the point. The look on Nadal's face after the point said it all. He knew something needed to be done. And so, he devised a plan.
Nadal's second set injury timeout serving at 1-1, and at the end of the set, had everything to do with gamesmanship. Right after the time out, Wawrinka dropped serve. Clearly, he was affected, and that's exactly what Nadal wanted.
This Spaniard will stop at nothing to win. As for him serving slow, Nadal knew after the first set exactly what he was up against. Stan was doing everything right, and was making him look like an amateur.
Nadal's slow serving had two purposes. First, strategy. Given how well Stan was returning, slowing down seemed the only viable option for Nadal. And two, to create an impression of an injury. Between serves, he seemed to be just fine, loading well on his forehands and backhands, to win set 3. Even if we were to assume that Nadal's injury was legitimate, we can't help but notice the numerous occassions he has used this tactic. A reader on this blog summed up some of it in a comment. Here's the link:
Stan the man
I'm proud that Stan put all that behind him and went back to basics to take down the title.
As for Nadal, it's a shame that he resorted to gamesmanship yet again to steal a title from Stan. It's a shame that he implicitly took credit away from Stan. There was nothing wrong with Nadal. He lost to the better player, who was all over him, and he just couldn't fathom it. What are role model you are for young kids who are growing up adoring you, learning that winning is everything, and must be achieved at all costs, even if it means employing unethical means.
So much for Nadal bashing. I, as a Roger Federer fan, am happy that justice has been served, at least for the moment. Stan's win erases the anguish of Roger's defeat. Watch out for the raging bull to make a comeback at the French Open. But for now, let's celebrate another Swiss win – not the Swiss we wanted – but our second favorite Swiss nevertheless.
As one of readers here, Alysha, would say, “Congratulations my lil swiss Croissant.”