Posted by News Express | 26 January 2014 | 3,762 times
The newest member of the grand slam club was still trying to digest the transformation in his fortunes on Sunday. “Before today I never expect to play a final,” said Stanislas Wawrinka. “I never expect to win a grand slam. And right now I just did it.”
At 28, Wawrinka has been knocking around the circuit for so long that people were beginning to take him for granted. Lovely bloke, beautiful backhand, but a serious contender in this age of serial champions? Really?
That perception began to change here in Melbourne 12 months ago, when Wawrinka came within two points of ousting Novak Djokovic in a fourth-round epic later voted match of the season by their fellow pros.
Then came the signing of Swedish coach Magnus Norman, in April, and the inscription of a Samuel Beckett quote on the inside of Wawrinka’s left arm. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” As tattoos go, it is certainly classier than barbed wire around the biceps.
“I like it,” said Norman on Sunday of the tattoo. “It sums up what he stands for. He’s been maybe a bit of an underachiever the last couple of years in the big tournaments but always tried to find a solution, tried to improve, to find a way to beat these top guys like Novak, like Rafa.
“For me it is the same as when I coached Robin Soderling – someone gave me a diamond and it just needed a little polish. He needed to believe in himself a little bit more in the big matches, may be play the big points with better strategy. Those are some of the few things I’ve tried to help him with.
“I took the job because Stan for me is a really humble guy, a nice guy, not because I thought he was going to be top five. I knew he had great results in him, but this is a little bit beyond my expectations.”
Wawrinka is better than top five now; he will be the world No 3 when the new rankings come out on Monday. This will be a very different top 10, in which his fellow Swiss, Roger Federer, sits at No 8 and Andy Murray at No 6. Some are even calling it the end of the big four’s hegemony.
That does not extend to Rafael Nadal. The world No 1 will stretch his lead over Djokovic, despite Sunday’s result, because he was unable to play here last year. Nadal also missed the Australian Open in 2006 with a foot problem, retired against Murray in the 2010 quarter-final because of a bad knee, and damaged a hamstring at the same stage in 2011.
On Sunday, Nadal was struck down yet again in a tournament that seems to bear a grudge against him. But Wawrinka still felt he had proved his superiority over the course of a bona fide first set.
“I was surprised how well I start the match,” he said. “In the beginning, he was good, Rafa was fit, he wasn’t injured. And myself, I was playing amazing tennis.
“Then was the second set in the match. I had to stay calm with myself, to stay aggressive because he was injured, but he was still trying a little bit. Was not easy. I start to be really nervous because I start to realise that I could win a grand slam. But at the end I just come back to the game and focus on what I want to do.
“To be honest, I still think that I’m dreaming,” Wawrinka concluded, with his characteristic shy smile. “There’s a big chance I get drunk tonight.”
•Credit (except headline): Telegraph. Photo shows new champion Wawrinka.
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