Between June 2013 and September 2016, Stan Wawrinka hasn’t lost a single final in which he was playing. Including an immaculate three out of three in Grand Slam tournaments, which places the Swiss very high in the hierarchy of the best specialists of this pretty special exercise which is the last match before the title. The proof with four examples.
Invincibility in Grand Slam finals : close to the best… except Federer
Australian Open 2014, Roland-Garros 2015, US Open 2016 : Stan Wawrinka has won his first three Grand Slam finals played. An incredible achievement, putting him on a par with Jimmy Connors, Björn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Gustavo Kuerten - the only one of this prestigious list to have stopped his total at three Grand Slam titles, the others having at least doubled, or even quadruple their total - in the Open era. But this doesn’t even represent half of the way Roger Federer has been through : the older of the two winning Swiss has won the seven first Grand Slam finals which he played (Wimbledon 2003, Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open 2004, Wimbledon, US Open 2005, Australian Open 2006) before facing his first defeat in this exercise, against Rafael Nadal at Roland-Garros in 2006. To give an insight on the extent of the incredible feat achieved by the man who’s won 17 Grand Slam titles, Federer’s seven titles in a row put him on a par with two champions from the 1880’s, Richard Sears at the US Open, and William Renshaw at Wimbledon…at a time during which the winner of the previous year was automatically qualified for the final of the next tournament, following the rules of the Challenge round !
Consecutive wins in finals : close to the best… except Federer (part two)
Before being defeated in the final in Saint-Petersburg, Stan Wawrinka remained on eleven finals won consecutively - 12, if you count the BNP Paribas Davis Cup final, won collectively but still, in 2014. His series is the 5th best in the Open era, very close from Bjorn Borg’s and John McEnroe’s (12) and Rafael Nadal’s (14). Still remains a respectable distance - half the way again - with his fellow countryman Roger Federer’s record, who’s won 24 consecutive finals between Vienna in 2003 and the Masters in 2005. Before the end of this incredible series against David Nalbandian (despite being two points away from winning the match in the fifth set !), the Swiss had won Vienna and the Masters in 2003, the Australian Open, Dubaï, the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open, Hambourg, Halle, Wimbledon, Gstaad, Toronto, the US Open, Bangkok and the Masters in 2004, Doha, Rotterdam, Dubaï, the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open, Miami, Hambourg, Halle, Wimbledon, Cincinnati, the US Open and Bangkok in 2005. His favorite victims during this time-lapse ? Andy Roddick (defeated 5 times, including two finals at Wimbledon), Lleyton Hewitt (3 ties, including the US Open and the Masters), Andre Agassi (twice, US Open and Masters), Marat Safin (twice, including the Australian Open), without forgetting Ivan Ljubicic (3 finals) and two youngsters named Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
Number of Grand Slam tournaments won for a champion considered to be a « late bloomer » : no match in the modern era
Stan Wawrinka is a role model, an example even, for all those who, at 28, continue to believe in their lucky star despite a trophy cabinet with no significant titles. During the Open era, the players who have won their first major tournament after 25 (approximately halfway through their career), and have managed to win another one after that, not to be considered one hit wonders, are pretty rare. Among them are Ilie Nastase (won the US Open 1972 at 26, and Roland-Garros one year later) and Andy Murray (25 and 4 months at the US Open in 2012, two Wimbledons since then). Stan Wawrinka goes even further : After winning his first Grand Slam title at almost 29 years old (28 and 9 months at the Australian Open in 2014), he’s the only « late bloomer » to have confirmed not once, but twice (Roland-Garros 2015 at 30 and 2 months, US Open 2016 at 31 and 6 months). The last example of a player who had improved this much with aging takes us back to the amateur era (when the best players in the world couldn’t take part in Grand Slam tournaments), and to Jaroslav Drobny who had won his first major title at 29 (Roland-Garros 1951), before winning another Roland-Garros and Wimbledon once. But there is still a huge difference, as Drobny had already played (and lost) 4 major finals when he finally reached his goal.
Wins against the world n°1 in a major final : Stan, the « giant killer »
« Iron Stan » against world number 1’s in big finals is quite something : if he’s obviously not the only one to have defeated a world number 1 in a major final - big up to Rafael Nadal who’s done it against Roger Federer (Roland-Garros 2006, 2007, 2008, Wimbledon 2008) and Novak Djokovic (Roland-Garros 2012, US Open 2013), Stan Wawrinka’s case is unseen before, as he has won ALL of his major finals against world number 1’s : Australian Open 2014 against Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2015 and the US Open 2016 against Novak Djokovic. A huge performance considering that outside of this, his win ratio against current world number 1’s is 18 defeats in 18 matches played ! To truly realize the extent of his achievement, you have to consider that on the way to his first two Grand Slam titles, he had also defeated the world number 2 along the way (Djokovic at the Australian Open 2014, Federer at Roland-Garros 2015). Give it a rest : you have to go back to 1993 to find a player who has won a major tournament after defeating the two best players in the world along the way, in fact Sergi Bruguera defeating Pete Sampras and Jim Courier at Roland-Garros in 1993.