Late bloomer Wawrinka a serious contender for Wimbledon
It is fair to say that on his day, Stan Wawrinka can beat any player in the world, as he proved at the French Open when defeating seemingly invincible Novak Djokovic to claim his second Grand Slam title.
And now there is no reason to doubt that he can completely upset the odds again and win Wimbledon too (14/1 chance with Coral), despite not having the best of preparations as he went out in the second round at Queen’s.
However, prior to the French Open, the furthest that Swiss number two Wawrinka’s got in clay court events was the semis at the Rome Open. His other results were reaching just the third round at both the Monte Carlo Masters and Madrid Open, and the quarters in his home country at the Geneva Open.
His success at Roland Garros, though, on top of his Australian Open triumph in 2014, has led to many suggesting that he now belongs in the Same category as ‘big four’ of Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
“I’m not as good as they are. But I’m quite good enough to win two Grand Slam tournaments,” Wawrinka said. “I can beat them in major tournaments, in a semi-final, in a final. But once again, the ‘big four’ will always be the ‘big four’.
“I don’t want to be in comparison with them. I want to make progress and strides. I want to beat them. That’s all. It is as simple as that.”
While Wawrinka may not want the tag of being in that category, it is hard to argue against the facts. Why should that unofficial group not be extended to the ‘big five’?
Like Murray, Wawrinka has now won the same amount of Grand Slams (two), as well as having an Olympic Gold medal (men’s doubles with Federer) to his name. On top of that, the Swiss has added a Davis Cup triumph, meaning he has more top end titles than the Scot.
Murray has won over three times the amount of career trophies than his counterpart in fairness, but it is the above events that players will be remembered for throughout history.
Wawrinka’s rise in the game has certainly been a remarkable one, especially so late in his career. The 30-year-old had never even reached a Grand Slam final before his success Down Under last year, and in his eight years as a professional prior to 2013, had only made it to two quarters.
But the year 2013 was certainly a turning point for Wawrinka, who was always in compatriot Federer’s shadow until recently, when he hired former French Open finalist Magnus Norman, of Sweden, as his coach.
Since being appointed in April of that year, the Swede has guided Wawrinka to at least the quarter-finals in seven of their nine Grand Slams working together, compared to just two in his previous 32.
Following his four-set triumph over Djokovic at the French Open, Wawrinka said on his star coach: “We had a good talk with Magnus before the final. I was feeling really relaxed until maybe 15 minutes before going on to the court. Then I start to be really nervous and I start to tell myself, What is happening?
“I had a good talk [with Norman]. He’s always confident with myself. He always finds good words to make me believe in myself and to go on the courts knowing and believing that I can beat the number one player in a Grand Slam final.”
So, although form and his average record at Wimbledon (he has only reached the quarters at SW19 once) may suggest he has no chance, don’t back against Wawrinka to shock once again and potentially put himself within once tournament of achieving the career Slam.
One thing for sure is that his on-court presence will now be enough to scare all opponents and, with Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand (arguably the best in the game) also a weapon, he should be regarded as a real threat on grass.