How Stan Won Roland Garros.

Offense toppled defense in the 2015 final.

Congratulations to both Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic for playing a fantastic French Open final!

Stan won the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Novak won the hearts of the crowd with an amazing extended standing ovation in the awards ceremony. Novak is hardly ever the crowd favorite or gets the fan respect he deserves. Well, all that changed when he received his runner-up trophy, and the crowd extended their applause for a long, long time – signaling their deep respect for all he does in our game.

Ok, now to Stan.

The Swiss star was impressive on so many levels. Firstly, you have got to start with the Magnus Norman’s game plan. It was A+. Well done coach!

There was only one way that this match was going to be won by Stan – he had to reach out and take it. I clearly remember watching the first few points when Novak played Rafael Nadal in the quarters. It was alllll Novak. It was all offense, because that was the right way to take down the nine-time champion. You could tell from the first minute that Novak was wearing the pants, and that Nadal was going to spend the afternoon on permanent defense.

Well, the exact same sub-plot played out in the final, with Stan directing traffic this time around.

From the first handful of points, it was obvious that Stan had a plan, which was to swing as hard as he could first, and check the scoreboard later. It didn’t work immediately, but as he developed the plan and got more comfortable with it, his offense became the dominant theme. At the end of the match, with the title on the line, it won him the title.

I want to go back and review my preview of the match – where I predicted Djokovic would win in 3 or 4 sets.  I want to pinpoint how Stan completely derailed that school of thought with his spectacular offense.

Also, here is the link to my ATP analysis:

ATP Brain Game – Match Analysis


I had a concern with Stan’s double faults coming into the final. Well, he served nine aces and only three double faults to make it a complete non-factor. I also predicted Stan needed to win at least 50% of his second serve points to win the final. Well, he hit that number right on the head, winning 21 of 42 for exactly 50%. Here are all the serving stats for both players.

ServingDjokovic Wawrinka
Aces 69
Double Faults 03
1st Serves In65%67%
1st Serve Points Won63%76%
2nd Serve Points Won53%50%
Break Points Saved73% (11/15)80% (8/10)

The other major upgrade for Wawrinka was that his first serve percentage went from a tournament average of 50% leading into the final, to a ridiculous 67% in the final. Who saw that coming? In the previous 6 matches, Stan’s first serve percentage was sub-par. Here are the numbers:

WAWRINKA 1st Serve %1st Serve Points Won
Round 12858%78%
Round 6444%70%
Round 3254%93%
Round 1643%79%
Quarters 54%88%
Semi 52%76%
Final 67%76%

Here’s his progress in the final, set by set.

Sets1st Serve %1st Serve Points Won
Set 1 - Lost 6-461%75%
Set 2 - Won 6-4 70%67%
Set 3 - Won 6-372%90%
Set 4 - Won 6-4 65%73%

It’s very clear to see that the moment, the momentum, the adrenaline, the history, all contributed to his best serving day of the tournament. Nothing else came close to the numbers he put up in the final. He was in full attack mode – full beast mode – and he kept nailing it again and again. Fantastic.


This is where Stan grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck. He went toe to toe with the best baseliner in our sport, and well, completely dominated him.

Baseline Win %Djokovic Wawrinka
First 6 Matches 56% (371/658) 54% (397/734)
Final 44% (75/172) 52% (84/163)

For Novak to perform so poorly at the baseline was another key element of the final that was so out of left field. You could imagine Novak’s win percentage dropping over one or two percentage points in such an important match, but not 12%. Not Novak.

Baseline Win %Djokovic Wawrinka
Rd 128 59% (55/93)52% (53/102)
Rd 64 57% (48/84)55% (90/164)
Rd 3256% (50/90)58% (46/80)
Rd 16 59% (66/111)58% (60/104)
Qtrs59% (59/100)53% (63/118)
Semi52% (93/180)51% (85/166)
Final 44% (75/172) 52% (84/163)

You can see Novak’s numbers in the final are so far off – a testament to Stan’s full-throttle offense.

Backhands Down the Line

Going down the line against Novak is a perfect counter-move to interrupt his defensive prowess. If he can’t touch it, he can’t defend it. Stan hit five pure backhand down the line winners in the final 22 points of the fourth set to completely wrestle control of the match. When he needed it most, it was gold. It was a day when very little went wrong with his backhand.

I tagged Backhand Forced Errors as a possible problem area for Stan coming into the final, as he had 44 more than Novak (112/68) for the tournament. It quickly became a non-issue, with Stan having 17 and Novak having 16. The raw power of the backhand took care of all the little problems.

Ferocious Forehands 

Overall, Stan hit 60 winners to 30 and 26 (almost half) were from the forehand wing. He really loved his little run-around in the middle of the court (running from baseline position B to C) and then taking that behind Novak to his backhand, wrong-footing him. Seven of his 10 forehand winners standing in the Ad court were struck that way. When standing in the deuce court, Stan hit 15 winners, including seven straight down the line at 1000 miles an hour.

The forehand unforced errors that had been a problem coming into the final (40 more than Novak 108/68) ended up not being a problem at all. Stan had 21 forehand unforced errors in the final, and Novak actually performed worse in this category with 23.


Stan owned the baseline, and he also owned the net, winning 70% (23/33) points coming forward. The main reason he came forward so much was that his huge groundstrokes were bringing back a lot of short balls from Novak. With the match on the line, at 0-40, 3-4 in the fourth set, he finished at the net four out of five points – with the other one being a service winner. The net was a happy place for Stan in the final. Novak did okay coming forward, winning 58% (14/24).


Here are some important quotes to consider from Stan in his post-match press conference.

“At the beginning, it is always the same when I play Novak. The player who stays on the line and tries to dictate always makes the other uncomfortable…. and little by little I started to be the player inside the court.”

“I am still surprised the way I played because I think I played amazing today. I was really nervous, but I didn’t always show it. I was always going for the shot. Always going for the right play.”

Stan went for his shots – because he had to. There was no other way for him to beat Novak. He was not going to out grind him, or make one more ball, or serve and volley his way to the title.

More than anyone else, Stan has the ability to pole-axe groundstrokes. He had to go for it, with smart patterns, down the line patterns, that would take away Novak’s magical defense – take the racket out of his hand.

This was one of those matches that right from the first handful of shots, you could see it coming. The problems that I wrote about with Stan’s run to the final all evaporated when Stan dictated pretty much every point against in the final. The bigger you play, the better you get at it.

Stan played one of the best matches he will ever play. He was absolutely amazing. He went and took the final from Novak. That’s how you want to win something like this.