When Novak Djokovic finally routed King of Clay Rafael Nadal in Roland Garros this year on his seventh attempt, people thought that the moment had finally come for the Serbian to take home the Musketeers’ Trophy that had been evading him for so long.
That straight-sets win over Nadal, after six failed attempts -- dating back since 2006 -- seemed like a harbinger of Djokovic’s impending big win, and the odds were hugely in favour of the World No:1, who had been in incredible form till then.
He came to Paris undefeated on clay, with victories in Monte-Carlo and Rome Masters boosting his confidence. Stan Wawrinka awaited him in the finals, a player against whom Djokovic had a lopsided head-to-head record. Wawrinka wasn’t considered a lesser threat, but Djokovic’s impeccable record bolstered the latter’s chances.
With Nadal off the track, the Serbian had his best shot at winning the French Open. In the very first game, there was a spectacular 39-shot rally, and Wawrinka managed to trick Djokovic into firing a backhand shot a bit too hard; for all those who were expecting a cakewalk for Djokovic, that rally was a shocker.
Three hours later, the unthinkable happened -- the man in hideous chequered trousers walked away with the trophy, and luck had nothing to do with it. That evening, Stan the Man trounced Djokovic, reducing the Serbinator into a vulnerable human, capitalising on the fear of a man who was almost close to laying his hands on the holy grail.
Twenty eight is an odd age for someone to win his maiden Grand Slam, and when that happened to Wawrinka at the 2014 Australian Open, it wasn’t welcomed by all alike. Some dismissed him as “One-Slam Wonder”, who happened to be lucky enough to have encountered an unfit Nadal.
Even the headlines read Wawrinka beats an ‘injured’ Nadal; the Spaniard’s injury took centre stage that day. Perhaps it was that disbelief which made some question the calibre of Wawrinka -- who won his first ever Grand Slam on his 36th attempt.
Although Wawrinka had been a regular at Majors since 2005, it wasn’t until 2013 he reached the semifinals (US Open), and mind you, that was his 35th attempt. What/who is responsible for Wawrinka’s paradigm shift in 2013? Magnus Norman happened.
If you may recall, it was Norman who coached Robin Soderling -- the maverick who humbled Nadal at the French Open in 2009. Norman once again has become instrumental in the making of an iconoclast, as he lead Wawrinka to his second Grand Slam win that day.
This time, Wawrinka was given all the credit he deserved; the Swiss No:2’s elegant single-handed backhand and fierce groundstrokes were all people could talk of that eve, after he denied Djokovic the prestigious Musketeers’ Trophy.
Djokovic’s 2015 calendar year can be summed up like this: 11 titles from 14 finals, including three Grand Slams from four finals.
Six Masters 1000 series titles from eight finals. (Madrid -- absent). Had Djokovic won the French Open crown as well, he would have become the only man since Rod Laver to have completed a Calendar-Year Grand Slam, an achievement not even Roger Federer could manage.
Djokovic’s best ever season is almost perfect, except for that missing French Open. The man responsible for that tiny fleck on Djokovic’s perfect canvas is Wawrinka, and all for that reason, 2015 can be regarded Wawrinka season also.