Moments before his third French Open final in four years, Novak Djokovic jogged in a stadium hallway, near a poster of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, the silver trophy awarded to the men’s champion at the only major tournament he has never won.
And once again, Djokovic came up one victory shy, stopped by the eighth-seeded Wawrinka and his magical, one-handed backhand. Wawrinka won his first French Open championship and second major title by stunning Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in a superbly played match Sunday.
“One day, you will win Roland Garros,” Wawrinka told Djokovic during the post-match ceremony. “You deserve it.”
Wawrinka had exited in the first round in Paris a year ago. And he had lost 17 of his past 20 matches against Djokovic. But Wawrinka would not relent on this sunlit afternoon, compiling twice as many winners, 60 to 30.
That beautiful backhand of his was a big reason; one even made its way around the net post before landing on the red clay.
Another backhand earned the match’s last break, to 5-4 in the fourth set. And, fittingly, yet another finished the match and allowed the 30-year-old Wawrinka, so long in the shadow of his Swiss Davis Cup teammate and good friend Roger Federer, to add to the championship he won at last year’s Australian Open.
This was also Djokovic’s 11th French Open. He has won eight Grand Slam titles, with five at the Australian Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the U.S. Open. But he must wait for another year if he’s to become the eighth man in tennis history with at least one title from each major.
Djokovic came up short against Rafael Nadal in the 2012 and 2014 finals, but he cleared that hurdle this year, defeating the nine-time champion in the quarterfinals. Djokovic eliminated No. 3 Andy Murray in a two-day, five-set semifinal that concluded about 25 hours before Sunday’s start.