Quick Take: Stanislas Wawrinka Upsets Andy Murray in the US Open Quarterfinals


After watching Stan Wawrinka lose that heartbreaker to Novak Djokovic in Australia earlier this year, I wasn’t sure how he would handle the aftermath. No matter if a player plays the match of their life, it’s hard to take positives from a tough loss like that one.

But Wawrinka was playing good tennis before that match, and he continued to play good tennis after that match. He beat Andy Murray in Monte-Carlo. He made his second Masters 1000 final (and his first since 2008) in Madrid, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych along the way.

His summer results weren’t outstanding, but everything has come together for him at this US Open. He played some of the best tennis against Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray to make his first career slam semifinal.

Earlier this year, we did a Changeover Chat on Robin Soderling. One of the things we discussed was whether there was a player who would achieve a Soderling-like breakthrough later in their career. At the time, I suggested Wawrinka. Soderling achieved more than Wawrinka has, reaching two slam finals, winning a Masters 1000, and becoming No. 4 in the world. And he wasn’t as consistent as Wawrinka before his breakthrough in 2009. But there’s something similar about the two big hitters that gives me hope that Wawrinka might reach new milestones beyond this tournament.

As for Murray, he had a bad day, to be sure. Wawrinka devoured his serve, winning 46% of points on the return. In contrast, Murray was stifled by Wawrinka’s serve, winning just 25% of return points, and failing to earn a single break point.

To take a closer look, per Jeff Sackmann’s match charting, Wawrinka was able to get 97% of Murray’s first serves in play, which allowed him chances in virtually every Murray service game. He dominated rallies under 10 shots. Murray actually won the majority of points with rallies over 10 shots, but Wawrinka largely avoided getting into those long rallies, limiting the number of points with 10+ shots to 19 out of 185 total points (10.3%).

In conclusion, Wawrinka played a very good match, and Murray had a bad day. Here’s hoping Wawrinka and Djokovic produce another classic like their match in Melbourne.

Also, this is the greatest.

Juan José:

After watching Stan Wawrinka’s impressive win over Tomas Berdych, I remember switching streams to catch the end of Murray/Istomin and quickly realizing something obvious: Andy Murray would have to play at a much higher level if he wanted to overcome the Stan who beat Tomas Berdych.

To say the Scot didn’t rise up to the challenge would be an understatement.

In a match that started out as a tight encounter, it was the defending US Open champion who cracked first, and at the worst possible time. Serving to stay in the first set at 4-5, Murray’s forehand swiftly abandoned him. I counted at least three unforced errors off that wing in that game alone, and a double fault was tossed in for good measure. The game itself was a protracted, nervy affair, but after the last Murray forehand unforced error, Stan had deservedly taken the first set. The current Wimbledon champion, fed up with his sudden collapse, smashed his racquet in disgust.

Things didn’t really improve for Murray in the second or third sets. There was more frustration, more bad forehands, more tame second serves that were getting eaten alive by Wawrinka. Shockingly, given that Andy Murray is one of the two best returners on planet Earth, Stan didn’t face a single break point during the entirety of this quarterfinal match. Read that last sentence again, and it still won’t make sense.

And yet, it happened.

I thought Stan Wawrinka did a number of things extremely well. First, he served at a very high level (which he had done against Berdych, too).

Secondly, Stan was merciless against Andy Murray’s second serve (which despite the recent success, is still very much a liability). The Swiss was fully committed to taking big cuts against any short second serve (and there were many). I was surprised that Andy didn’t use his second serve kicker more; while it’s not a great kicker by any means, it still pushes Stan back and doesn’t let the point start with a missile that somehow has to be rejected.

The third thing Stan Wawrinka did extremely well is make this a battle of forehands. This might seem counter-intuitive, since everyone raves about Stan’s one handed backhand as a great shot (unpopular opinion: aesthetically, it’s my second least favorite one hander out there behind Robredo’s), but the match-up against Murray’s two-hander was not desirable, for many reasons: 1. Murray loves to yank opponents wide with his cross-court backhand, which forces Stan to hit defensive slices, and 2. Stan likes to have a lot of time to properly hit that one-hander. Murray takes this away with consistent depth and with his usually biting slice.

However, things look pretty good for Stan when it comes to trading forehands. He takes that shot earlier, and puts a ton of weight on it. He used it expertly today to push Murray back as well as to open up the court to generate accessible volleys and easy put-aways. Stan dared Murray to come up with better forehands than him in key points. And Murray just couldn’t do it.

Finally, here is my favorite tweet about the match:


I completely agree – we’ve all seen Stan zoning (2013 Australian Open vs. Djokovic). This was not Stan Wawrinka zoning – just Stan being very composed and competent in all facets of the game. Which makes the 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 scoreline all the more depressing for Andy Murray: it simply means that the two-time slam champ didn’t come close to bothering a man who’d never made a slam semifinal before today.

Lastly, here’s a tweet that contains some food for thought:

Today, Andy Murray didn’t strike me as somebody who was anywhere near enjoying his afternoon at Arthur Ashe. And who could blame him? The man achieved a dream of a lifetime at Wimbledon. After such lofty accomplishments, it’s difficult to keep the motivation running (particularly when one has spent so long trying to achieve said goal). After what I saw today, I thought Andy could benefit from some time off the court to regroup, refresh, and ask himself what his new goals are, now that the old ones have been achieved. But judging from Nick Lester’s tweet, it seems like Murray won’t have any time to do that kind of soul-searching, given this packed schedule (never mind the long-distance travel).

I’ll be curious to see what happens Andy. I wonder what his perspective will be on the one obvious goal that he hasn’t really embraced: becoming the World Number 1.

As Rafael Nadal would say, we gonna see, no?


Okay, so I’ve already written a bit about Andy Murray, and we can talk about him again in a minute, but can we just take a time out to give Stanislas Wawrinka a standing ovation?

We had a little discussion in the comments of this blog about bias, and all I have to say is this–I will always get a thrill out of seeing guys such as Tommy Robredo, Richard Gasquet, and Stanislas Wawrinka get their moment in the sun. Always. In the old-school fandom terms that used to populate blogs back before I was a writer, I think the official term was “FOOP” which meant “Fan of Other Players.” “Other Players” meaning guys that aren’t a part of the Big Four.

That does not mean I don’t respect the top guys–beyond a doubt I do, and I think it’s amazing what they do and how consistent they are and they’re all really good guys, etc. But I love to see other guys get their moment in the sun.

Today was Wawrinka’s day. The backhand. The forehand. The volleys. The serve. The return. They were pretty much all clicking. It was just a treat to watch. That’s not saying this was one of the best matches he’s played–it’s not, because he was hardly tested at all, which is why I still think the match against Djokovic in Australia rates higher.

But today he was unrelenting, he proved that the heartaches earlier in the year didn’t break him, and he seized the moment. Bravo. Allez. Etc.

As for Murray, it was a very 2010 version of Murray out there on court today, wasn’t it? He just really didn’t have anything left in him. Now, going forward, it’s going to be interesting to see if he’s really interested in pushing for major after major the way the rest of the top guys do, or if he’s content now that he has two, including the prestigious Wimbledon.

I think he’ll be back in the winner’s circle again, but I also think he’s right–he won’t be contending for slam after slam. It’s not really his nature. But that’s just part of his charm.

Now, some tweets. (I was going to do a Tweetcap, but ran out of time, so let’s just add them here.)






10 Responses

  1. Miguel
    Miguel September 5, 2013 at 7:31 pm |

    Another Soderling/Wawrinka similarity: Magnus Norman, formerly Sod’s coach, is coaching Stan this year. Talk about an underrated coach! Seems to draw the best out of big hitters with long strokes like the Sod and Wawry.

  2. Edmond Dantès
    Edmond Dantès September 5, 2013 at 9:17 pm |

    “Now, going forward, it’s going to be interesting to see if he’s really interested in pushing for major after major the way the rest of the top guys do, or if he’s content now that he has two, including the prestigious Wimbledon.

    I think he’ll be back in the winner’s circle again, but I also think he’s right–he won’t be contending for slam after slam. It’s not really his nature. But that’s just part of his charm.”

    Andy’s record in the biggest tournaments in the last year and a bit:

    Wimbledon – Finalist, Olympics – Won, US Open – Won, Australian – Finalist, Wimbledon – Won

    Based on that, I’d say it’s not really in his nature not to contend. He was due a blip somewhere as he’s been extremely consistent in slams for several years now. I’m pretty sure that’s all it is. I’d be more concerned about his back than any issues to do with future motivation/consistency (he was wearing the dreaded undershirt of doom once again today).

    On the match itself….

    …it was a bit like watching a match where one player was able to go out and play their normal game, whilst the other was almost completely constrained by the breeze blowing around the place. Stan’s heavy top spin stood up well (as you might expect), Andy struggled throughout with his distance control (amongst other things).

    Last year the wind helped Murray out against Berdych and Djokovic. Today it was the other way around. Them’s the breaks – I wouldn’t read too much more into it than that…..few matches in the year are played in the bizarre conditions that exist on Planet Ashe.

    “Courtney Nguyen @FortyDeuceTwits

    Wawrinka isn’t playing “the match of his life”. He played the match of his life in January. He’s just playing…a match.”

    The 1st part is correct, the last is not. Stan played a very good/excellent match, particularly in sets 2 and 3. He served great, kept excellent depth, had far more penetration than Murray and was pretty useful up at the net. He pulled off several shots that were of a high degree of difficulty (especially so considering the conditions)……indeed, as the match wore on it was more of a surprise when he actually missed something.

  3. Kimberly
    Kimberly September 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm |

    I agree, when I watched Murray play Istomin I knew the Murray out there wouldn’t get it done against the Stan who was beating Berdych, hitting the skin off the ball. But I thought that Murray would raise his game with it being a quarterfinal of a slam and being aware of the danger Wawrinka posed. Then when he went down 2 sets I thought of Fernando Verdasco. I agree with the conclusion. Stan played great and Murray had a bad or at best lukewarm day.

  4. Claire
    Claire September 5, 2013 at 10:45 pm |

    When did the comment section of this blog turn into a forum?!?

    1. Fig
      Fig September 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm |

      When the writing started getting noticed for begin spot on and timely? 🙂
      I like the writers, and the commenters post smart things… so I read them 🙂

  5. mat4
    mat4 September 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm |

    Watched Djokovic in his first real test, against Youzhny. It is a difficult match to gauge: it was windy, and the third and fourth sets were a complete mess. As a Novak fan, thinking long term, it was a very encouraging match: we can clearly see what’s Novak’s game is going to look in a few months: a flatter and better FH, a better transition game, less grinding and more attacking overall.

    Short term, concerns arise. First, although his usual strategy of changing directions and spin usually delivers good results against Wawrinka, his second serve looked so vulnerable, his backhand so mortal that he will have to up his level quite a bit to make the final. And there, against Gasquet (this was just for Kimberly, Nadal, of course), I really don’t know how he is going to win.

  6. Faye
    Faye September 6, 2013 at 6:20 am |

    Every time Andy would yell at his box, I keep picturing Ivan Lendl’s stoic stare and I would just laugh. Kept wishing the camera would go to Ivan after one of Andy’s rage fits.
    Have to agree with Courtney’s tweet and Juan Jose, Stan was playing good but nothing special. Here’s to hoping Stan plays the “match of his life” vs. Djokovic (again) at the semis, now that will be epic.
    Allez Stan!

  7. mat4
    mat4 September 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm |

    I don’t agree with “Stan was playing good but nothing special”. In fact, rewatching the second and third set, I thought he was playing exceptionally well. [This sentence is the product of our distorted view that great champions never lose because somebody was better, but they didn’t play well.]

    How does he play when he plays “special”? It is a disturbing thought for a Novak fan.

  8. Kimberly
    Kimberly September 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm |

    Each quarter was a one hand back hand v a two hand just like the French open. At the French the ones went 0-4. At the us open they fared better., 2-2. Now the both the semis are also one hand verse two handers. I’m guessing 0-2 this time but u never know, both Gasquet and wawrinka are great players with nothing to lose,

  9. mat4
    mat4 September 7, 2013 at 6:01 am |


    In one match, players will mainly crosscourt, in the other, down the line and inside out. One match will be decided by the FH against the BH, the other probably by serve vs return.


    In both matches, power vs speed.

    Rafa seems to be a sure pick.

    In the other semi, hard to choose.

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