Wowrinka!

Stan Wawrinka just won his third Grand Slam, making him the oldest in 46 years to win the US Open. Here’s an profile-feature I’d written on Stan Wawrinka for The Teenager Today magazine almost two years ago. He had only won the Australian Open in 2014 then. Add two more to that, and this Swiss star who does not respond to the name ‘Roger Federer’ has proven once again that he ain’t another ‘run of the mill’ Tennis Champion! And once again, I am so happy at the way I concluded this one!


When you’re a Swiss sportsman of this era, you’d always be second best to a certain legend, no matter how good you are. And if you are a Swiss Tennis player of this era, you’d be constantly living under the shadow of a certain Roger Federer. Yet, Stanislas Wawrinka has rightfully earned his place as one of the very best to come out of one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

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Not just an ‘also-ran’
In an age that comprises some all-time greats like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, it is easy to ignore the likes of Wawrinka as somebody who is there to make up the numbers. Wawrinka himself thinks it will be difficult for him to be the World Number One in Tennis going ahead of the big three. But if his Australian Open 2014’s victory proved anything, it was that this burly Swiss can produce Tennis of the highest quality to be among the best in the world, if not the best. For somebody who had quit schooling at 15 for Tennis, his passion for the game and a new-found self-belief has now driven him to be among the Top Five in Tennis. While his name may not feature among the Big Four, he is here to prove that he isn’t an ‘also-ran’!

The year of great Ups and ugly Downs
2014 has been an enigmatic year for Stanislas Wawrinka. From touching the heights of literally touching a Grand Slam trophy in Australia to falling to the depths of pre-mature exits in lower ATP tournaments. He did begin the previous year by bagging the Chennai Open, serving perhaps a silent warning to his opponents at the Australian Open. Yet, the draw was such that he had to contend with the likes of Djoko, with whom he had lost the last 14 matches and Rafael Nadal, with whom he hadn’t even won a set in their previous 12 encounters. Often, champions bring their ‘A’ game out when they are brought out against the very best. Wawrinka did, as he defeated the Djoker in five sets, and then, went on to defeat the left-handed Spaniard in an exhausting four-set finale.

After the initial glory, Wawrinka had another roller-coaster ride in the months to follow, with defeats without reaching the Semi-finals of some ATP tours, but also winning the ATP Masters 1000 by defeating his good friend and idol, Roger Federer in the finals at Monte Carlo. Grapevine had it that the two friends had an altercation in the locker room in another ATP World Tour Finals. Yet, he would later team up with Federer to ensure a Davis Cup victory capping off a memorable year. His singles victory against Tsonga, and the doubles win would contribute to Switzerland’s first Davis Cup title.

A Classical Backhand to die for!
Not quite sure if this is a Swiss trait, but like his more-famous countryman, Stanislas Wawrinka also has a single-handed backhand that is a delight to the eyes, as also a rare commodity. A backhanded down-the-line winner also happens to be his favourite shot on court. Wawrinka also improved his forehand over the course of his career, perhaps explaining the reason behind his recent successes. As somebody who prefers a baseline play, it is hardly surprising that he prefers the clay and hard courts. Also, with the long clay-court season in the Tennis Calendar, it is something that he should grab with both hands when in full-flow.

If 2014 gave his fans any indication of a weakness, it was his mental ability to remain consistent over a period of time. By his own admission, he lost his focus after his Australian Open triumph. Winning the ‘big one’ meant that he had lost his interests in winning the ‘lesser ATP tournaments’. Coach Magnus Norman had to dig deep to get Wawrinka back on track, or should we say, back on court!

Modest Competitor
It was also this partnership that made him realize that he could beat the world’s best on his day. Not very often do we find players who go out on to the court every tournament with only a target to reach the Last Eight or Last Four, and not to win the tournament. Wawrinka is one such – Taking one step at a time and one match at a time! “As a tennis player, you have to get used to losing every week. Unless you win the tournament, you always go home as a loser. But you have to take the positive out of a defeat and go back to work. Improve to fail better,” he says.

He knows he would have to pull out all his stocks to win against the Top Three, and it isn’t easy. “I never expected to win a Grand Slam because, for me, I was not good enough to beat those guys,” he was quoted as saying. Modest, most would say. Honest, for others. That perhaps, is where his fans will call for some arrogance to enter his game too. Arrogance by not being disrespectful, but by believing that you can be better than your opponent! Respecting your opponents is a must, but on the court, while you’re actually playing the game, it could backfire. One saw that during the finals of the Australian Open 2014. As Nadal played with injury, Wawrinka slowed down, allowing his much fancied opponent to fight back. It was only after he lost a set did he realize that he cannot afford to go slow against somebody like Nadal! Winning a battle within himself was his first task, followed by the actual victory on the court.

One would say, what mattered in the end was whether he weathered the storm and had the trophy in his hand? He did. He probably may have some more.


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