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Stan the Mousquetaire - the victor few foresaw

By Kate Battersby   on   Sunday 07 June 2015
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When did he know he would win it? Only on Friday Stan Wawrinka was expressing disbelief at being in the final of Roland-Garros 2015 at all. Novak Djokovic is by so great a distance the best player in the world that few could rationalise how the Swiss might win. The Serb took the first set, and all was normal. But in the second Stan surged back, and began outhitting Djokovic. At 0-3 in the fourth, the globe was back on its axis; the match was heading for a fifth set, and of course Djokovic would win.

But then Wawrinka came steaming back to 3-3, and the whole tennis world could hardly believe the two thoughts at the forefront of its collective mind: number one - if this goes to five, you have to think Djokovic will take it... but number two - this isn't going to five. Wawrinka is going to win it in four.

And he did.

Sometimes in life, very extraordinary things do happen. Sport captures this almost uniquely. There are never enough titles, enough gold medals, to go around all those who should win, never mind factoring in those who could win. In sport, you just never know, you never know.

But Stan did. It was 24 minutes past six on a beautiful Parisian evening when the moment came. Three hours and 12 minutes after he hit the first ball of the match, he delivered the last - a backhand down the line which carved the court in two and Djokovic's heart in half. The Coupe des Mousquetaires, the grail which Djokovic sought to complete his career Grand Slam, belonged to Stan Wawrinka.

"I was really nervous, but I didn't really choke," he would say later, when asked what was in his mind at that moment. "I was always going for my shot, always going for the right play. I feel calm, quiet, and relaxed. These are strange feelings. It's very difficult to describe. It's very difficult to say what you feel. A lot of emotions. A lot of pride, as well."

The moment was not his alone. Up in the stands, Wawrinka's coach Magnus Norman - himself, of course, a former world No.2 - leapt out of his seat, his jaw wide open, palms on his cheeks, quite patently screaming in joyous disbelief. Back on the court, Wawrinka permitted himself a small smile. Extravagant celebration is not his style.

Moments later, he was up there in the box with Norman and the people who matter to him - friends, family, supporters. Very little in life matters very much without others to share it with. The great irony of the bracket of tennis marked "singles" is that triumph cannot be achieved by a player in isolation. They call him Stan the Man, but this moment was all about Team Wawrinka.

As he arrived back on the court to receive the trophy, some who watched were reminded of the words he spoke in anticipation of this final.

"I know that (Djokovic is) not always happy to play me when I can play my game," he said. "When I can play my aggressive game he's not feeling his best normally. So I will have to focus on myself. As far as I'm concerned, the fact that I did this before, I won a Grand Slam before, therefore it calms me down. Even though I'm nervous, I'm more tranquil."

And as he lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires, his face broke into a peaceful smile. That profound calm is what he will be remembered for here - that, and a certain item of clothing, the design of which is the product of anything but a quiet mind... his shorts. When he walked into his post-victory press conference, he sat down and draped the signature pink checks over the desk in front of him, announcing with a grin that he had donated the shorts to the Tenniseum, the on-site museum at Roland-Garros.

"Everybody talked about the shorts," he said, amid laughter and applause. "I quite liked them. Apparently, I'm the only one."

Next Article: Sensational Stan: Wawrinka wins Roland-Garros
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