We are down to just two at the final Grand Slam on the 2016 tennis calendar. And it’s Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka for the US Open title tomorrow in New York City.
Before I get to the title match, a quick look back at how the two got to the final Sunday.
Djokovic didn’t look great but did what he needed to do to get past Gael Monfils in the semifinals Friday. Monfils took heat for his strategy but heck, his mission isn’t to entertain the crowd (though often it is), it’s to plot a course to win! And he tried to shake things up and for a while it actually worked.
Stealing a page from Gilles Simon, Monfils slow-balled Djokovic and the Serb donated nicely.
But you never got the feeling, regardless of how poorly Djokovic played and looked physically – that the Frenchman had it in him to go on and win the match. He got at least, tried something new, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
And for Djokovic there wasn’t much to take away from the match other than he’s is dealing with some physical issues and from looking at his demeanor he’s lucky to have had the draw he got.
The second semifinal was a minor upset with Wawrinka taking out an in-form Kei Nishikori. I picked Kei based on form but really that match was a toss up. Unlike Monday when they closed the roof and Nishikori benefited against Murray, this time it may have hurt Kei as Wawrinka won all three sets under the roof for the four set win.
Maxing things out, when he’s on Stan just has more power than Kei and that’s what we saw.
Stan picked up his first Top 10 win of the season, looked very strong and most importantly looked fit and hungry.
So on to the final.
Novak Djokovic v Stan Wawrinka
Djokovic has won 19 of their 23 meetings but of late in Slams it’s been an “even-steven” type of match-up. Stan’s won multiple sets in their last five Slam meetings winning at the Australian in 2014 and in the French Open final last year.
Now stan’s trying to add a third different Grand Slam title and third Slam by beating a World No. 1 – how impressive is that? And he’s reached beating two tough, in-form players in Juan Martin Del Potro and Nishikori, both of whom he lost to over the summer and of course have had their greatest Slam success in New York!
This week (not the first week), Stan’s been belting the ball, feeling confident and since he’s got those wins over Novak, he’s not scared of the Serb.
Meanwhile, Djokovic remains a question mark. We’ve seen him get treatment on a wrist, his right elbow, his right shoulder and his left shoulder, just about everywhere. He appears wounded and he hasn’t played anyone even approaching the level of Wawrinka.
Monfils, Kyle Edmund and Jerzy Janowicz have nothing really in common with Wawrinka other than they are all tennis players from Europe.
So Stan is going to hit the ball hard and make Djokovic work. And Djokovic will have to be on his game to win.
Both guys rarely lose in finals. Djokovic’s been dominant while Stan has won his last 10 and he’s never lost a Grand Slam final, 2-0.
So based on form and recent meetings Stan’s the choice. But Djokovic is still No. 1 and he’s awfully tough to count out when he’s in these big matches regardless of injuries and illness.
The problem is I just don’t know where Djokovic’s level is at. Four months ago I knew. Or at the French I knew. Now, after his shaky summer, the personal issues and these injuries, the crap draw he’s faced (not his fault), it’s hard to say. And he might not know either.
However, Stan does. So I’m going with him. In Slams he’s got Novak’s number and he’s played better this event. If Novak shows up and is in full flight, he’ll win. I just don’t think he will and that opens the door for Stan.
The pick: Wawrinka in 5
ESPN has the final live at 4pm. Based on history it should be a heck of a match. And if both guys show up – Stan does get up for finals and playing Novak, but you never know with him – it could be a classic!
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