Swiss Stan Wawrinka won his third Grand Slam title in New York on Sunday.
The 31-year-old may never have the cachet of the so-called “Big Four” — Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — but he’s ready and able to give any one of them a run for his money every chance he gets.
Now boasting as many Grand Slam titles as world number two Murray, Wawrinka isn’t planning to slow down, and he seemed a bit affronted that anyone might think he should.
“I’m 31 years old,” Wawrinka said in New York when asked why he wasn’t looking toward retirement. “What do you want me to do? Just go to the beach? Not do anything?
“Did you ask that question to Rafa also or to Andy?”
Then he showed just how much he has left in the tank, capping a draining fortnight with a championship victory over world number one Djokovic.
Wawrinka emerged from the shadow of superstar compatriot Federer with his Australian Open triumph in 2014.
His run in Melbourne included an epic five-set win over three-time defending champion Djokovic and a victory over injury-hit Nadal in the final.
With the win in his first Grand Slam final the then-28-year-old supplanted Federer at the top-ranked Swiss player.
Wawrinka backed up that breakthrough with a victory over Djokovic in last year’s French Open final — denying the Serb in his first bid to join the select club of men to complete a career Grand Slam.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 12, 2016
With an elegant one-handed backhand and bullish refusal ever to back down Wawrinka has established himself as one of the biggest threats on the game’s biggest stages.
Tattooed on his left forearm are the words of Irish poet Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
And Wawrinka’s late-career success is his reward for years of perseverance.
He lost 14 times in a row before triumphing over Djokovic en route to his Australian Open title.
He went a dozen matches without taking a set off Nadal until beating him in that championship match.
In reaching his first US Open final — after semi-final exits in 2013 and 2015 — Wawrinka had saved a match point in a gritty five-set win over unheralded Dan Evans, held off 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro in four and rallied for a four-set win over 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori.
There was no mystery to what drove him through nearly 18 punishing hours on court to reach the final — plus four more on Sunday — it’s the same engine that drives him at an age when many are thinking of winding down their careers.
“I love my sport,” Wawrinka says. “It’s my passion. It’s an amazing feeling to be out there.”