Novak Djokovic was all praise for Stan Wawrinka after losing to the Swiss in the US Open final on Sunday. The Serbian went down in four sets to the No.3 seed at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
After winning the first set on a tiebreak, Djokovic was poised to win his 13th Grand Slam title, but as Wawrinka has shown so many times in the past, when it comes to the big matches, he is as good as any out there.
The No.3 stepped up when it mattered most and Djokovic, who seemed to struggle with cramp/injury in the fourth set, could not cope.
"He just steps in," Djokovic told reporters after his 6-7 (1-7), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 loss. "He loves to play in the big matches. He comes up with his best game. He's so solid from both corners. He's got a good slice and amazing one-handed backhand, all corners. Big serve, moves well.
"He's a very complete player. Sometimes if he feels right he doesn't miss much and makes a lot of winners and it's hard to play him. That's what happened."
Djokovic, though, felt the result might have been different had he been able to convert the numerous break point opportunities that were on offer. The Serbian could convert just three of 17, while Wawrinka took advantage of six of ten break points.
"I just didn't capitalise at all on my opportunities," Djokovic said. "Simple as that, you know. I had plenty of them, break points. It was a terrible conversion of the break points. Just terrible from my side.
"In matches like this, if you don't use the opportunities, the other guy comes and takes it. And that's what he did. That's why I said he was more courageous, because he stepped in and played aggressive where I was kind of more waiting for things to happen. And that's it."
Djokovic might be a great champion, but he does not exactly endear himself to the crowd owing to what many might see as gamesmanship. That was on view in this US Open 2016 final as well. A couple of sets down and a break down, Djokovic decided to ask for a medical timeout, when it seemed like what was really ailing him was cramp. A player is not allowed to take a timeout for cramp, but the Serbian later explained he had an injury in his toe.
"Just the toenails were off and bleeding," the world number one said. "Yeah, it was quite painful to move around. You know, I tried."
Asked if he was cramping in the fourth set, Djokovic replied with a blunt "No," before adding. "I don't think it's necessary for me to talk about that now. He won the match. He deserved to win this trophy, and that's it.
"I don't want to talk about this and you guys think I'm finding excuses. It's just not necessary."