In an intense French Open Final on a sunny day in Paris, No. 8 seed Stan Wawrinka stunned top seed Novak Djokovic in an epic battle between two hard-hitting tennis stars 4-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 that lasted three hours and 12 minutes. It was the first time Wawrinka has won the French Open after a decade of dominance from Spaniard Rafael Nadal, and the second time the Swiss star has won a grand slam.
In perhaps a fitting example of the tone of Sunday's match, Wawrinka served on his first championship point, and thought he had won on an ace, but the serve was later called out. The 30-year-old would battle back later in the game, delivering a punishing backhand winner to take the tournament.
"I played my best tennis today," Wawrinka told NBC. "It was amazing -- an amazing match, an amazing level. It was not easy. When you play Novak No. 1, you have to go with your shot, and I'm surprised I was playing well. But I am really, really happy to get that trophy."
At the trophy ceremony, the crowd at Roland Garros gave Djokovic a prolonged ovation, as Djokovic appeared to fight back tears. Djokovic entered the tournament as the favorite despite being paired against Nadal and Andy Murray in the same bracket. He had a five-set semifinals match against Murray that spanned two days due to a weather delay. The Murray match may have taken a toll on Djokovic. The Serbian star looked vulnerable on several occasions against the rested Wawrinka.
"That's something you can't forget. I really appreciate that. I appreciate the respect that they give me for the effort that I make and for [what] Stan and I put into the match today," Djokovic said about the ovation he received.
"Congratulations to Stan. He completely deserves to be a winner today. He played much better tennis. [He was] more aggressive, was more courageous. I tried my best. It wasn't [my] day, unfortunately, and I have to keep on going."
It was the third time that Djokovic reached the French final, and was once again denied the elusive grand slam title. Djokovic has won eight career grand slam titles.
Wawrinka provided many thrilling moments. In the fourth set, with Djokovic serving on a Wawrinka break point, Wawrinka ended the 15-point rally with a blistering back hand down the line to take the 5-4 lead.
In the sixth game of the third set, Wawrinka broke Djokovic's serve by winning all four points, and did it in style. With the score 0-15, Wawrinka crushed a forehand down the line, and Djokovic would throw up his arms in either exasperation or defeat. The very next point, Wawrinka drilled a spectacular backhand down the line for a winner.
At one point, Wawrinka had twice as many winners than Djokovic, 40-20. He finished with 60 winners, with 11 from his backhand. But the backhand was exceptional, and when he was taking chances, it looked particularly devastating.
Oozing with confidence, Wawrinka took more chances than usual. He approached the net more, and went for stronger second serves.