World number one Novak Djokovic has said that tennis now has a ‘big five’ following Stan Wawrinka’s US Open triumph at the weekend.
Wawrinka beat Djokovic in four sets on Sunday to win his third Grand Slam.
“He plays best in the big matches and definitely deserves to be mentioned in the mix of top players,” said Djokovic.
But world number three Wawrinka, who said he was crying with nerves before the final, insisted he was “really far” from the ‘big four’ of Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
That illustrious quartet have won 42 of the past 47 Grand Slams, though Wawrinka now has the same number of major titles as Olympic champion Murray.
In head-to-head matches against them, Wawrinka trails Djokovic 19-5, against Murray he is 9-7 down, Federer leads 18-3 while Nadal is 15-3.
Wawrinka also only has one Masters 1000 title compared with Murray’s 12.
“Just look at the tournaments they have won, how many years they’ve been there,” said Wawrinka, who has now won his past 11 finals.
“If you look, yes, I have three Grand Slams. How many Masters 1000 has Murray? They have been there 10 years.
“They have not only been winning, but being in semi-finals, final every time. That’s why I’m not there.”
At 31, Wawrinka is the oldest male US Open champion since 35-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1970 and only the fifth man in the Open era to win more than one major tournament after turning 30, following Rosewall, Rod Laver, Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors.
He now needs the Wimbledon title to complete a clean sweep of the Grand Slams.
In reaching the US Open final, Wawrinka spent almost nine hours longer on court than Djokovic, a beneficiary of three retirements during the event in New York.
“He’s a very complete player. If he feels right he doesn’t miss much and he makes a lot of winners so it’s hard to play him,” said Djokovic, who also lost to Wawrinka in the 2015 French Open final.
Wawrinka’s confident performance was at odds with his pre-match nerves, when he broke down in tears while speaking to his coach Magnus Norman.
“Before the final I was really nervous like never before. I was shaking in the locker-room,” said the Swiss, who was match point down against Britain’s Dan Evans in the third round.
“When we start talking five minutes before the match, last few things with Magnus, I start to cry,” he said. “I was completely shaking.
“But the only thing I was convinced with myself was that my game was there.
“Physically I was there. My game was there. Just put the fight on the court and you will have a chance to win.
“And that’s what happened, after a few games when I start to believe in myself, I start to be in the match.”