An excellent 18 months brought Stan Wawrinka the first two Grand Slam titles of his then-decade long professional career at the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 French Open, but performances since hinted that his spell as a top-four guy would be fleeting.
It wasn’t merely the fact that the 31-year-old went five majors without success that sounded the alarm, it was more so that, after six successive runs to the quarter-finals or better, earlier this year he exited in the fourth round in Australia and the second in Wimbledon.
However, with his path to the final simplified slightly by the gradual demise of Rafael Nadal and absence of Roger Federer earning him the third seeding, the Swiss player has resurfaced at the US Open. Novak Djokovic is suddenly all that stands between him and a third Grand Slam in three years.
The Serbian is the 1/3 favourite to Wawrinka’s 12/5 outsider, and the areas where the world number one has the edge are easy to identify: his 19-4 head-to-head supremacy, his two prior titles at a Slam that Stan has never been to the final of before and his more serene route this far, profiting from a walkover and two retirements while his opponent has gone four sets or more in four straight rounds.
However, there is a huge upside to a bet on the man striving to make this the 12th season of the last 14 in which Switzerland have supplied at least one of the four Grand Slam men’s singles champions.
For starters, on both prior occasions that he got to a major final, he won it. In each of those contests, he was up against an all-time great with a vastly superior silverware collection and a dominant record in previous encounters: Nadal in Australia two years ago and Djokovic in France last summer.
In completing a hat-trick, Wawrinka would become just the fourth man in the past 40 years to win his first three finals, following in the groundstrokes of Stefan Edberg (1988), Gustavo Kuerten (2001) and Federer (2004).
Djokovic finally claimed the Roland Garros title that his Swiss foe denied him last year earlier this season, but his form since has been less impressive, exiting in the third round at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey and falling at the first hurdle at the Olympics.
The aforementioned withdrawal-and-retirement cocktail has meant that he has only had to beat Jerzy Janowicz, Kyle Edmund and Gael Monfils to receive this opportunity, which isn’t enough evidence to confirm that he is back to his best. Indeed, it is arguable that getting this far without a true test is actually a disadvantage, especially if this turns into a classic Wawrinka four or five-setter.
Another trend in support of the upset is the rapid rotation of the US Open title, with four different recipients in the past four years and six in the last eight. Though Djokovic has triumphed twice, he has also lost four finals at Flushing Meadows, including the 2012 and 2013 editions.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.