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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic could clinch his third Grand Slam title of the year Sunday afternoon, but a stiff challenger will be standing in his way when the 2016 U.S. Open final gets underway at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Third-ranked Stan Wawrinka has a long history with Djokovic, and their battle in the championship tilt projects to be epic as the year’s Grand Slam schedule gets set to wrap up.
Before the action gets underway, here’s a quick rundown of when and where you can catch all of the title theatrics:
|Sunday, Sept. 11||4 p.m.||WatchESPN|
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Whenever we’re talking about a clash of tennis titans, head-to-head history needs to be taken into account.
When it comes to their all-time series, Djokovic owns a hefty advantage over Wawrinka.
Djokovic is 19-4 against the Swiss stud, including wins in each of their last two meetings. Those clashes both came a year ago, with Djokovic emerging victorious by straight sets in Cincinnati before dispatching Wawrinka in three sets at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris.
With that said, Wawrinka shouldn’t be an overwhelming underdog.
The world No. 3 not only defeated Djokovic in the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinals, but he also put together a masterful four-set performance against the Serbian superstar to win the 2015 French Open final at Roland Garros.
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Novak Djokovic (left) and Stan Wawrinka (right) at the 2015 French Open.
“Novak has the edge,” ESPN tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe said, per the New York Times‘ Christopher Clarey. “But Stan is the one player now that can take the racket out of Novak‘s hands and is not intimidated by his defense.”
As Djokovic acknowledged, Wawrinka isn’t easily intimidated.
“He’s a big-match player,” Djokovic said, per Clarey. “He loves to play in the big stage against the big players, because that’s when I think he elevates his level of performance in his game.”
However, Djokovic should be encouraged by the fortuitous way in which he’s been able to stay fresh throughout the U.S. Open:
.@DjokerNole & @stanwawrinka took different paths, but both are at the end of the road to the #usopen men’s final: pic.twitter.com/1hURuVbrzZ
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 10, 2016
Prior to Friday’s strange four-set win over Gael Monfils, Djokovic had played a grand total of two complete matches in the tournament thanks to two opponent retirements and a walkover against Jiri Vesely.
Wawrinka, meanwhile, hasn’t enjoyed a straight-sets victory since his second-round triumph over Alessandro Giannessi. Since then, Wawrinka has been pushed to four sets three times and five sets once.
Fatigue could come into effect Sunday, which should give Djokovic an edge as he seeks to add to his ever-evolving legacy.