Stanislas Wawrinka, carrying the Swiss legacy forward
While a legendary Swiss tennis player is in the twilight of his career, the ‘other’ man from Switzerland has just come of age.
Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are good friends and have won an Olympic Gold medal (doubles) for their country at the 2008 Beijing Games. But it was always Federer who hogged all the limelight. While Wawrinka was slowly and steadily carving a niche on the tennis circuit, Roger catapulted to fame with his spectacular wins and game-play.
In the later years, Roger was joined by Spaniard Rafael Nadal, Serb Novak Djokovic and Scot Andy Murray. The Big Four, as they are popularly known, dominated and overshadowed quite a few good players capable of making it big. They played tennis with exceptional brilliance so-much-so that the era was hailed as the best phase in history of the game.
While the four reached the top, there were others who were raising the standards of their game and trying to match the levels of tennis’ top draws. Steadily over last few years, David Ferrer, Juan Martin del Porto, Tomas Berdych, Jo Wilfred Tsonga have all been hovering around the periphery of the Big Four.
In 2013, at the Roland Garros, it was Ferrer who reached the finals; the US Open saw the emergence of Stanislas Wawrinka.
He knocked out defending champion Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and gave a hard time to Novak Djokovic in the semis. The semi-final slugfest lasted over four hours with a game in the third set lasting more than 21 minutes. The marathon duel saw the Swiss saving five break points in that game and eventually winning it. Stan made sure that the world No. 1 faced a hard time making it to finals.
The match was won by Djokovic 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 but the top quality tennis played by Wawrinka earned him a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd.
The ‘other’ Swiss from Switzerland has definitely come out of the shadow of his legendary teammate, Roger Federer. Two C’s have played an important role in Stan’s rise—firstly, his new found confidence and secondly, his coach, Magnus Norman.
Confidence is the key. The Stanislas we see now is far more confident than the Stanislas we have seen all these years. Earlier, his major weakness was his inability to handle big matches. His improving mental strength was evident beginning 2010 US Open where he reached the quarterfinals of a major — first time in his career. In 2011, he reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. This year in the Australian Open too he had a classic match with Djokovic.
“I had some big confidence since the beginning of the year, and that`s helped, for sure. That`s where I stay focused during the match,” Wawrinka was quoted saying.
Under the tutelage of Norman, his serve has improved big-time. His one-handed backhand is flawless and is reminiscent of his Swiss compatriot Roger Federer’s backhand. Both play the shot exceptionally well. The single handed shot making makes the game an enriching experience for the viewers.
John McEnroe believes Wawrinka has one of the most powerful backhands he has ever seen and describes him as having ‘the best one-handed backhand in the game today’.
Age, however, will be a big concern for him. At 28, his future at later stages of Majors may be short lived, but one thing is for sure, this guy definitely has it in him to be among the top ranking players—a spot that has been occupied by the Big Four for almost a decade now. Though it may be too early to say that while one Swiss star fades away on the horizon the other is ready to carry his legacy forward; but one thing is for sure — Stanislas Wawrinka is here to stay.