Having finally beaten his nemesis Rafael Nadal in Paris, Novak Djokovic still leaves Roland Garros empty-handed.
After losing to Nadal in the 2012 and 2014 finals, it seemed Djokovic’s time had finally come when he beat the Spaniard in straight sets in the quarterfinals. Instead, the most dominant player this season was outplayed by Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka, who fired 60 winners to capture his first French Open title 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.
“It’s a loss,” said the Serb, who produced half as many winners as his weekly training partner. “Of course it hurts, especially because it was in the final.”
“I’m really happy to have won it, but I know he’s looking badly and desperately for this title,” Wawrinka said in a later news conference, the Coupe des Mousquetaires by his side. “I’m sure he’s going to get one one day because he’s so strong.”
Wawrinka draped his red checked shorts -- a talking point on social media throughout the clay-court season -- next to the trophy on the desk.
“It will be in the museum of Roland Garros, you will see my shorts every day if you want,” he said. “I know a lot of people talk about it, and it’s quite funny that it won the French Open.”
Djokovic, who was moved to tears when the crowd gave him a long standing ovation after the match, said he’d been feeling more emotional than normal. The French Open is the only major missing from his collection, and would have made him only the eighth man in history to complete the career Grand Slam of all four major tennis championships -- Wimbledon, the U.S., French and Australian Opens.
“I was more nervous than any other match,” he said. “The finals of a Grand Slam and the Grand Slam I never won gives a special importance to my approach to the match. But I thought I started well. As I got into the match, that was not a major issue in terms of dealing with the pressure. It’s just that he was better.”
Djokovic refused to blame his quarterfinal against Nadal, which was billed as big as a final, or grueling five-set semifinal against Britain’s Andy Murray played over two days because of an impending storm.
“I don’t want to come up with excuses,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair to Stan. Maybe in some important moments I didn’t feel I had that explosivity in the legs, but at the end of the day he was just a better player.”
At the trophy ceremony, Wawrinka told the Parisian crowd he played “the match of my life,” before dedicating his win to his Swedish coach, Magnus Norman, who lost the French Open finals in 2000.
Just like during their 2014 Australian Open quarterfinal, which he eventually won 9-7 in the fifth set, Wawrinka dictated play with his single-handed backhand, a blistering shot laden with top spin.
Leading 5-2 in the third set, Wawrinka ripped a backhand winner that went round the net post as a stunned Djokovic looked on from the baseline. Wawrinka, at 30 the oldest man to win Roland Garros since Andres Gomez in 1990, finished the match on his second match point with another powerful backhand, this time down the line, for his 60th winner.
“One of the best one-handed backhands that I have seen in tennis,” Djokovic said. “But his forehand has improved a lot. His forehand wasn’t the weapon, but now last two years it became a weapon.”
Djokovic didn’t want to look ahead to Wimbledon, where he won his second title in 2014 two weeks after losing a close four-set final against Nadal at Roland Garros.
“My mind is not in London at the moment,” he said. “I just got off the court and I need some rest.”