In the end, I think Stan Wawrinka did Novak Djokovic a favor. By beating Nole in the French Open final, he took the Grand Slam pressure off of him and enabled him to say, “You know what? The heck with it. I’m slamming that door (pun intended) and going for it at Wimbledon and the US Open.”
All the talk was about Serena, but Nole actually came closer to winning the Grand Slam as he lost in the French final but won the other three (US Open, Wimbledon, Australian Open) whereas she won the French, Australian and Wimbledon but lost in the US semifinals.
The coverage, though, was all about her – for the obvious reasons. Her Grand Slam hopes were still alive coming in to the US Open. And when the coverage wasn’t about her, it was about Roger Federer. Apparently, the crowd at the Fedocovic final – Do you like my new name for the Fed/Nole rivalry? – was disgraceful, not just cheering for Roger (that’s fine, we get it, he’s the once and future king) but cheering every Nole mistake. One poster said he wished he had broken his arm when he slipped and fell, bloodying his elbow and leg. Is it any wonder that Nole yelled “This is Sparta” at “300” star Gerald Butler, who was sitting in his box? He must’ve felt like the Spartan king Leonidas taking on the mighty Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.
The Persians would win that “game,” with the help of a Greek traitor, but ultimately, Persia would be conquered by the Greco-Macedonian king Alexander the Great.
Certainly, Nole had the last laugh Sunday night. But can he eclipse Roger’s 17 Slams? I don’t think so. He’s 28. Will he still be playing on Fed’s plateau when he’s as old as Fed, 34? He’d have to average about two Slam titles a year – not impossible but not probable.
Does it matter? I don’t think so. Fed accumulated most of his titles before his real rivals – Nole, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – came along. Whereas Nole can always say that he did it the hard way, beating two of the best that will ever be (Fed and Rafa), often back-to-back in one tournament.
And that is Sparta indeed.