New Delhi: After emerging as a force to reckon with in the 2013 season, Swiss tennis star Stanislas Wawrinka says he feels mentally stronger and can challenge the very best on the big stage.
Wawrinka, set to compete in the Chennai Open later this month, was labelled as a player, who lacked mental strength after consistently faltering against top players in big matches.
However, he changed that perception about him this season during which he recorded nine victories against top-10 players, including two against Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
It was a remarkable performance compared to 2012 when he managed just two wins against top-10 players and did not reach a single final.
With one title and three finals, he ended 2013 at a career-best singles rank of eight in the world and also reached a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time in his career at the US Open.
"I`ve been discussing a lot with my coach Magnus Norman this year. This year my confidence grew and I played well in big matches and performed very well against top 10 opponents. It all comes step by step and in New York and London I showed that I can do well against the very best on a big stage," Wawrinka told PTI in an interview.
"The semifinal in New York, what a big success and I`m happy that I made my first appearance in a Grand Slam semifinal," the Swiss added.
Wawrinka stretched world number one Serb Novak Djokovic in the that semifinal, which he lost after being up by two sets. He said it was a struggle to overcome that defeat but it did only good to him.
"Of course you are disappointed after losing such matches, especially during the first few days after the match. But then you need to discuss the match with your coach, analyse it and see the positive stuff behind it. Those defeats make you stronger mentally and give you extra motivation to keep fighting, working hard and try again," he said.
Wawrinka said he needs to work on consistency, which was a major difference between him and the top-four players.
He has lost all four matches against Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
"You know they are just amazing players. They are so consistent, Rafa, Novak and Andy have all won at least one Grand Slam and played many finals, something that I`m still hoping to achieve one day," he said.
Wawrinka said his title win in Oeiras (Portugal) in April when he beat world number four David Ferrer in the final and pre-quarterfinal match against Djokovic in the Australian Open made him a different player.
"I gained a lot of confidence from my great performance in Australia even if I finally lost that match against Novak Djokovic. Winning another tournament in Oeiras was important and a huge confidence booster. I always knew that I could be back in the top ten if I keep working hard and I`m happy that I made it in 2013," he said.
Striving for better results on grass is what Wawrinka has in mind for the 2014 season.
"You can always improve, that`s what I work for every day. I`m not happy with my results on grass yet. Even if I reached the final in `s-Hertogenbosch I feel that there`s still a lot of potential," he said.
In that final match in the Netherlands, he had lost to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, who was ranked 240 then.
Talking about Indian players, Wawrinka said Somdev Devvarman was impressive.
"I know that Somdev was struggling with some injuries but hopefully he can bounce back because he has a lot of talent. I don`t know Yuki that well, mostly from seeing him in Chennai where he always plays pretty well."
When he competes in Chennai for the season-opener, it will be his sixth appearance at the tournament.
Asked what brought him to this country again and again, he replied,"I just love Indian food. It`s delicious. A few years ago I went to visit a market and I was impressed to see all the different spices. People are very friendly in India. You always feel welcome and very well treated."