The Swiss star clinched his third major title with a convincing win over world number one Novak Djokovic, while Angelique Kerber put an end to Serena Williams’s reign at the top of the women’s game, as Gruffudd Owen reports
The last Grand Slam tournament of the tennis calendar year is over, with signs that a new era is perhaps upon us following some major surprises at the US Open.
Sunday’s men’s singles final was a match-up between two athletes whose previous triumphs on the hard courts of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland as the reigning champion, world number one Novak Djokovic as a four-time winner of the event – suggested they were always going to be difficult to beat on the similar playing surfaces of Flushing Meadows.
Wawrinka is no stranger to lifting major titles, having won the Australian Open in 2014 and the French Open last year. Yet his four-set victory over Djokovic was still unexpected, such has been the Serb’s dominance in the men’s game for the past six years.
The Swiss star has seemingly developed an enviable knack of producing his most inspired performances in the matches that matter most. Not only has he now won all three Grand Slam finals in which he has appeared, but he has also been victorious his last 11 finals in a row, which includes his Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships win in February – a remarkable feat for a man who is yet to be considered in the same league as the traditional ‘Big Four’ players (Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray).
Meanwhile, Djokovic must find a way to recover from a disappointing summer in which he suffered early exits at Wimbledon and the Rio Olympic Games. The 29-year-old remains a class act and will undoubtedly be a serious Grand Slam contender for a good few years yet, but this latest setback is perhaps evidence that his grasp on the men’s no. 1 ranking is not as firm as it once was.
If Wawrinka’s win and Djokovic’s aestas horribilis mark the beginning of a revolution at the summit of the men’s game, then such an uprising has already occurred among the women.
Home favourite Serena Williams was on course to surpass German legend Steffi Graf’s record of 186 consecutive weeks at the top of the rankings, but a shock semi-final defeat to the unheralded Karolína Plíšková cleared the way for another German – 28-year-old Angelique Kerber – to topple Serena and emerge as the new world no. 1. Kerber celebrated her new ranking by beat Plíšková in the final, to record her second Grand Slam title of the year.
The wounded Djokovic and Williams will now be targeting their respective Tour Finals series in the autumn as an opportunity to strike back and reassert their dominance in the game.
Whether or not they will be successful in halting the rise of their rivals remains to be seen.