Back in the 1950s when the US Open was played a few miles away and National League baseball was played in the neighboring boroughs, the Flock that resided at McKeever and Sullivan in Brooklyn used to grunt when No. 6 came up for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“There’s that man again,” they would say and the name stuck for Stan Musial, who forever became known as “Stan the Man.”
Now, when tennis is being played on the old World’s Fair grounds and National League baseball is just a stone’s throw away, flocks from all around the world are grumbling the same expression.
This time, though, for No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka.
For the last two weeks, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, the Ukraine, Argentina, and today, Japan all mumbled to themselves as Wawrinka fought through right to the US Open Final.
“Yeah, I’m really excited,” he said. “Really happy to make the final. Something amazing for me.”
If Wawrinka is going to win his third Grand Slam and first in Flushing on Sunday, he will have to go through No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, who had a relatively easy, but strange time with Gael Monfils today.
And he feels he’s up to the challenge, “To play Novak, the No. 1 player, it’s always really challenging,” he said “But we had some many big memories together, especially in Grand Slams, so it’s going to be an excited match.”
That’s what everyone wants to see. But if Sunday goes like the rest of Wawrinka’s tournament, then you know he would have earned this title.
It hasn’t been an easy two weeks for the 31 year-old, who didn’t have a straight sets win since the second round. He also could have easily gone home early in the third round barely beating Great Britain’s Daniel Evans in five.
But all of this may have prepared him for the toughest match of his career. Each Slam is its own challenges, but Flushing tends to be the toughest test because of the loud atmosphere and sometimes tougher winds and heat.
Djokovic is tested, winning here twice and took a very easy path with three walkovers. He may not be 100 percent, but he isn’t worn out either.
“I think the fact he didn’t spend too much time on the court compared to myself, I don’t think it’s going to change much for what I’m going to do and who I’m going to be,” Wawrinka said. “Was struggling with some injury problem before the tournament, so it helped him to be a little bit better. Also didn’t give him in so much time on the court, match time. You can practice as much as you want. Match is not the same.”
“And we saw today, it was interesting match to see, but Novak is a strong guy. He’s mentally a beast. Is not easy to play him. I’m sure he’s gonna bring him best tennis for the final.”
He was always known as Little Fed or Federer-lite, because of being in the shadow of countryman Roger Federer, but Wawrinka has come into his own over the past few years. He is mentally tough too and can withstand Djokovic’s best.
And Djokovic said today that Wawrinka generally rises to the occasion, much like a St. Louis outfielder a few generations ago.
“Because the biggest matches, it’s the end of the tournament. Final, semifinal, and I had matches to get confidence to play well match after match,” Wawrinka said. “Yes, I know I have some up and down during the year. I’m not playing my best tennis in every tournament, but I’m trying to work as hard as I can to give me the chance to play well every time I step on the court.
“And in Grand Slam is where I want to play my best tennis. Is where I want to be the better player. Always find a way to find my game and to put everything together.”
We shall see on Sunday, around 7 or 8 pm, if that’s the case, but the way he has been tested here, there’s a very good chance the good people of Serbia will be grumbling that famous expression the Flock in Flatbush coined in the 1950s.
“There’s that man again.”
He will then truly be Stan the Man.