It was as ugly as it was thrilling. But in the end, as Stan Wawrinka stood on Court Philippe Chatrier in exultation, pointing to his head, it was about big-match acuity.
Wawrinka took out Andy Murray in a 4-hour, 34-minute marathon Friday to reach the French Open final. Wawrinka, one of the most fearless hitters in the game, donated an obscene amount of unforced errors, 77 in all, and still beat the world No. 1.
After all the buildup, the fifth set was anticlimactic, with Wawrinka breaking Murray four times. If that doesn't speak to acing a pressure situation, we're not sure what does.
Wawrinka's reward (or is it a cruel joke?): Rafael Nadal in the final. But we'll get to that in a moment.
For now, let's take a deeper dive into Wawrinka's latest and greatest win, thanks to our unstoppable Stats & Information gang:
Won his fourth career match over a No. 1 in Grand Slam play; only Nadal (8) and Boris Becker (5) have more
Improves to 26-20 in tour-level career in five-setters; the only active player who has played more five-setters is his countryman Roger Federer
Improves to 9-2 in five-setters at the French Open, his best five-set record at any of the four major tournaments
Despite all the errors Friday, Wawrinka smacked 87 winners as well, equaling the total of his three previous matches combined
Not bad for an old guy, eh? Check out this piece of info:
And if that doesn't impress you, perhaps this will?
Wawrinka has won all three major finals he's played. Only one player in the Open era has had a longer winning streak in Grand Slam finals. You might know him by the name of Roger Federer.
Fed's streak happened to be his first seven finals. Since then, though, Federer has not strung together more than three straight wins in majors, largely because of one person (see next paragraph).
Hello, Nadal. The overwhelming sentiment is that he will roll over Wawrinka come Sunday. A nine-time French Open champ, Nadal needed just over two hours to take out Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. Nadal has yet to drop a set through six matches. Not only that, but no opponent has taken more than four games in a single set. That's utter domination -- even for the most prolific clay-court player ever.
Yes, this year's French Open stats scream advantage, Rafa. But keep this in mind: Wawrinka has never lost a Grand Slam final in three tries. He revels in the moment.
"The most important is when you enter the courts to focus on what you do, what you did in the practice court," Wawrinka said afterward. "Try to just focus on the game, point by point. And that's the only way you can win a Grand Slam final."
Rafa, take note. It's not a done deal. Not yet, anyway.
The United States hasn't churned out a dominant male singles player in quite some time. The last American major winner was Andy Roddick -- 13 years, nine months and one day ago (not that we're counting) at the 2003 US Open. And the last Yank to win a major on clay? Andre Agassi in 1999.
It must be noted, though, that while American futility on the men's side has become a thing in singles, the U.S. brigade has become quite stalwart in doubles. Yes, the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike) are the most accomplished team of all time, with 16 Slam titles, but even with this dynamic duo out of Roland Garros, the USA is still being represented well. Even better news: No matter what happens in Saturday's final, someone from the U.S. will walk away with a championship trophy.
That means Harrison and Venus will play the United States' Donald Young and his partner, Santiago Gonzalez, for the title. If you're wondering, the last American French Open doubles winner not named Mike or Bob was Jonathan Stark, who, with Byron Black, won Roland Garros in 1994 -- the same year Eugenie Bouchard was born, for what that's worth.
Back to the Americans singles players on clay. We mentioned it hasn't exactly been a stellar run. Imagine if one had to play Rafa on clay.
Thank god I didn't ever play Rafa on clay. Oh and oh and oh and oh and oh— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) June 9, 2017
I did ...... it sucked https://t.co/ndt4IIQSC9— andyroddick (@andyroddick) June 9, 2017
Bah hahahaha https://t.co/ZHHeiY0T3Z— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) June 9, 2017
So there's that.
All in all, considering that there were only two matches, it was a long day of tennis. Not that we're complaining, but sheesh, we are hungry.