NEW YORK • After treading a gilded path to his seventh US Open final, Novak Djokovic stumbled, literally, in sight of the prize as Stan Wawrinka found the strength and conviction to beat the world No. 1 in four pulsating sets - the last of them wreathed in controversy - on a warm September night.
Patrick McEnroe, commentating in the ESPN box, shared the cynical displeasure of most onlookers midway through the fourth set. The defending champion, who appeared to be cramping, was granted a dubious medical timeout to have his toes tended to, shortly after his service was broken.
It appeared to be a risible manipulation of the regulations, which say timeouts can only be taken for an "acute medical condition that requires immediate attention".
Wawrinka did not seem impressed, seeking assurance from the tournament referee, Brian Earley, that all was above board - and shooting his opponent a knowing glance.
"Sorry, man," Djokovic said to Wawrinka.
For what, one wondered?
"That was another example of a complete abuse of the rules," said McEnroe.
"It's up to the officials to do something about it, and they just don't have the guts to do it."