Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 US Open champion, has won every single Grand Slam final he has been in – three of them so far. Two of those three titles have been won as Wawrinka battled Novak Djokovic, each of those times from a set down against the powerful Serb.
But not many may know that Wawrinka’s first ever title on the ATP circuit, which came in 2006, was also against Novak Djokovic.
The Swiss went pro in 2002, at the age of 17, and during that time won a Grand Slam title – the boys’ singles at the French Open in 2003. He was ranked in the top 10 in the boys’ singles at the time, and also played on the ATP circuit simultaneously.
It was in 2006, at the Croatia Open Umag, part of the ATP250 series of events, that Wawrinka, aged 22, won his first ever ATP title. Wawrinka had been unseeded at that tournament, while 19-year-old Novak Djokovic was the fourth seed.
En route to his final, Wawrinka defeated both local hope Marin Cilic and Argentine big-hitter Juan Martin del Potro.
In another interesting factoid, Wawrinka trumped the Argentine, dubbed the Gentle Giant, in the quarter-finals of the event – which is also the exact stage at which he defeated Del Potro at this year’s US Open.
Del Potro was then on the upswing in the earlier part of his career, and would go on to win a Grand Slam only three years later; now, the Argentine, who is 29, has enjoyed nothing short of a stellar comeback after several injuries and surgeries sidelined his career for a significant time.
Wawrinka’s only ‘different’ opponent in the main section of that tournament was former Italian pro Filippo Volandri, who has since retired.
But the US Open this year will well have been a familiar outing for 31-year-old Stan Wawrinka, whose game, form and consistency have been nothing short of impressive over the past three years.
And a decade on, the result remains the same. As Novak Djokovic retired with fatigue then, so he looked to do at the US Open finals this year, taking two medical time-outs towards the end of the match, struggling as Wawrinka inexplicably looked fresh for the entirety of the four set, four hour match.