Stan Wawrinka clinched his third grand slam title by blasting out Novak Djokovic to win the US Open.
Wawrinka had demolished Djokovic in the French Open final last year and he pulled off a similar display of destruction at Flushing Meadows to win 6-7 (1/7) 6-4 7-5 6-3.
Djokovic struggled physically in the final set and took a controversial time-out before Wawrinka’s serve, but the Swiss held firm in Arthur Ashe Stadium to seal a dramatic victory.
When Djokovic’s final backhand flew long, Wawrinka closed his eyes and looked up to the sky before holding his arms aloft in celebration.
At 31 years old, he becomes only the fifth man in the Open era to win more than one major tournament after turning 30, following Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors in achieving the feat.
Wawrinka ousted Djokovic en route to winning both the Australian Open in 2014 and French Open last year, and he proved his class again here to deny the Serb a 13th grand slam success of his own.
The world number three had been match point down against Britain’s Dan Evans in the third round but he grew into the tournament and now stands one Wimbledon title away from completing a career grand slam.
“This is honestly amazing,” Wawrinka said. “I came here without expecting to win it but every time I step on the court I tried to win.
“I played a lot of tennis these two weeks. I am completely empty. I had to bring everything I had today against Novak.
“There was so much emotion with the crowd and the atmosphere, this is something I never had before. It has been an amazing night again.”
Djokovic, a beneficiary of three retirements in New York, had spent almost nine hours fewer on court than Wawrinka, but injuries have also blighted his progress and they caught up with him at the very end.
He took a medical time-out before Wawrinka’s serve in the fourth, which angered his opponent, although there appeared no lingering bad feeling at the finish as the pair shared a warm embrace.
“Congratulations to Stan and his team,” Djokovic said. “This has been absolutely deserved.
“Today you were the more courageous player in the decisive moments. You are a great champion and deserved to win this title.”
Despite Djokovic’s physical issues, Wawrinka was a convincing champion. He hit 46 winners, broke Djokovic’s serve six times and became the first ever player to beat the top seed at the US Open after losing the first set.
He took time to get going as Djokovic broke first and raced 5-2 clear but the Serb spurned two set points and then the momentum shifted.
Finding his rhythm, Wawrinka broke back via a Djokovic double fault and after trailing for most of the opening hour, the Swiss had himself a tie-break.
He won what must have been the point of the tournament, a 19-shot rally that included two drop-volleys, one half-volley, one lob, one attempted pass and finally a Wawrinka volley-winner. The crowd leapt up for a standing ovation.
Djokovic lost that exchange but won all the others as a long Wawrinka forehand secured him the opening set.
Wawrinka, however, had found his groove and after breaking once with a trademark backhand, cannoned down the line, he did so again at 5-4 to snatch the second and level up.
This was the first time since round one Djokovic had not been ahead in sets but more unnerving was that he had lost control, Wawrinka unleashing at will while his opponent was left protesting at his box and smiling in disbelief.
Wawrinka broke for 3-0 in the third and while his golden spell dimmed enough for Djokovic to stay in touch, he broke again at 6-5, pointing his finger to his temple as he moved up two sets to one.
While Wawrinka had signalled his mental toughness, Djokovic was now struggling physically as he pulled up with pain in his left leg at the start of the fourth.
Wawrinka showed no mercy, breaking for 2-0 and holding for three, as a hobbling Djokovic walked his way through the game and barely put up a fight.
He took ice on his legs at the changeover and then could hardly serve, producing two double faults in the next game, yet saving break point to hold.
Umpire Ali Nili then granted Djokovic a six-minute medical time-out to take treatment on his feet and before the serve of Wawrinka, who made his irritation clear to both umpire and opponent.
Djokovic even apologised to Wawrinka but the tension was palpable when play resumed, as a sprightly Djokovic earned three break points but failed to capitalise.
Instead it was left to Wawrinka to serve out at 5-3. On his first match point, he dumped his forehand in the net but on the second, Djokovic fired long and after three hours and 55 minutes, his victory was complete.