November 10, 2014
Stan Wawrinka subjected Tomas Berdych to the most one-sided demolition since the ATP World Tour Finals came to London in 2009. His 58-minute, 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of the troubled Czech, who continues to struggle without a coach, was driven by a ferocity no one expected.
But why should we have been surprised when Novak Djokovic beat that record-breaking rate of destruction just a few hours later, taking little over 56 minutes to defeat Marin Cilic by the same 6-1, 6-1 score?
The two losers managed just three winning ground strokes between them, a statistic almost unheard of in the modern era. That says much for the fearsome displays delivered by Stan and Novak.
Wawrinka, the resurgent Swiss number two, needed just 58 minutes to put away Berdych, even though the Aussie Open champ had won just one meaningful match since September.
Stan The Man’s stunning return to form was the story of the day, even though Djokovic soon dished out a similarly harsh beating to US Open winner Cilic.
For a man on a 27-match winning streak indoors, Novak’s latest triumph was simply business as usual. Even so, the Serbinator’s confidence was almost frightening.
Earlier an equally buoyant Wawrinka admitted: ‘This was an amazing start for sure, I was working really hard on the practice courts to get my tennis back. Today I’m really happy with the way I handled the situation.’
Even in his moment of triumph, Wawrinka still paid lip service to his incredible compatriot Roger Federer, the most popular player in the world. ‘Roger is the boss, it’s an honour to play in the same (Davis Cup) team as him,’ said his understudy generously.
Poor Berdych was booed by a section of the 17,000 afternoon crowd, after failing to put up a sustained fight against Wawrinka. He looked hurt by the reaction but shrugged his shoulders almost as though he accepted that he deserved the spectators’ expression of displeasure.
Cilic was spared such condemnation, perhaps because the even-bigger evening crowd seemed to recognise they had been in the presence of true sporting genius.
Any Serbia v Croatia contest is sure to be invested with an extra edge due to the recent history between the two countries. Djokovic was determined to dominate Cilic from the start. And even though Cilic broke back in the second set to put matters back on serve at 1-2, he was promptly broken for the fifth time in the match to signal the end of any meaningful resistance. Ruthlessly, Novak managed a sixth break before all was said and done.
The problem for any opponent of Djokovic is that you usually have to do something almost superhuman just to win a point. Eventually the pressure tells, and that normally redoubtable Cilic serve crumbled all too early.
Novak explained: ‘I used to ski when I was about ten and that is similar to the sliding movements you need to defend in tennis.’
His opponents will be cursing the day Djokovic first put on those skis and began to relax that ultra-flexible body of his.
Djokovic, who came up with some breathtaking cross-court forehand winners, told the crowd later ‘It was a great match, thank you for coming and it was a great performance. I managed to neutralise Marin’s serve. I’m not guessing, practice makes perfect and it’s about anticipation. It’s very useful when you’re playing against a big serve.’
Novak readily paid tribute to his canine exercise partner too. ‘I’m trying to spend some time out in the park in London with my dog because my family isn’t here. I’m not spending time in the pubs if that’s what you’re thinking!
‘I hoped for this kind of performance, I returned very well and that was part of the plan. Cross-court is my best passing shot and that’s one I know I can rely on.’
Looks like the new father can rely on his makeshift support network too. Who needs English beer? One man and his dog already look like a winning combination in London.
It will take something incredibly special to unsettle them.