A clearly underdone Stan Wawrinka was unable to withstand an unstoppable performance from aptly-named American journeyman Tennys Sandgren on Thursday night, the Australian Open 2014 champion ousted from the tournament 6-2 6-1 6-4 in just 88 minutes.
Asked afterwards where this match ranked in his career, Sandgren answered rhetorcially. “Where do you think?” he smiled back at the gathered media.
“This would definitely be (my biggest). All the categories: biggest win, biggest moment of getting a victory, setting me up for the biggest stage to play third round of a slam, biggest opportunity. All those good things.”
“Going into a tournament like this, you don't know if you'll get an opportunity or a look, or even be able to take advantage of it,” he added. “So to come out of it with a victory, it's a huge deal for me, and something that if I don't ever get another accomplishment, I can at least hang my hat on.
“For me personally, that's really cool.”
Sandgren also understood the difficult position Wawrinka found himself in during the match.
“I know he's going through some tough things physically,” he said. “I wish him all the best and hope that he can return back to full form and top level, because we know what that looks like.”
In only his second match back since Wimbledon last year – and recovering from surgery to his left knee – Wawrinka looked troubled from midway through the first set, unable to hit his marks and appearing somewhat hampered with his movement in the evening heat, which hovered around 34 degrees Celsius for much of the match.
“It’s never easy to feel that way on the court,” Wawrinka said. “But if I look really back, I only had surgery five months ago, five months and three days. To be this far already, it's more than what we could have expect with my team.
“I need to take what I can to be positive with everything, with the big picture. That's the most important.”
Nothing must be taken away from the 26-year-old Sandgren, however, who looked completely composed throughout the match, generating pace and precision from deep in the court and keeping Wawrinka completely at odds – his 32 winners and 11 aces a level which would have no doubt greatly troubled even a fully-fit Wawrinka.
The pair traded blows evenly as play began, but at 2-2 the American reeled off nine consecutive games, breaking the match wide open by stealing the first set and racing out to a 5-0 lead in the second.
Sandgren could seemingly do no wrong, and with two sets already in his back pocket, he calmly broke again early in the third and dutifully kept his advantage, sealing his first win over a top-10 player with a beautifully-timed ace out wide.
To say the world No.97 was the more inexperienced of the duo coming in to this second-round clash would be an understatement of epic proportions. In Sandgren’s own words, “How many Grand Slams has (Stan) won? Three? I’ve won one match, so there’s a bit of a difference there.”
Furthermore, Sandgren’s only other stadium court appearance was in his US Open debut last year, where he lost in four sets to Marin Cilic.
After defeating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday, Sandgren – who has had an injury-laden career himself – said that he had watched Stan play Novak Djokovic a few times, “mostly in bars after I’ve been knocked out of whatever (ATP) Challenger I’ve been in”, adding that “Him perhaps not being at his sharpest can’t hurt my chances.”
Indeed it didn’t, but it all counted for nil on Thursday night anyway as Sandgren’s powerful game more than measured up to anything the Swiss No.9 seed had to offer.
Sandgren now faces German Maximilian Marterer, a five-set winner over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco.