All eyes on Wawrinka as French Open nears
swissinfo, Jonathan Hirsch
"Stan", Switzerland's other tennis player, will be courting success at the French Open starting Sunday (EQ Images)
First-rate results from the start of the year have projected Stanislas Wawrinka to the tenth men's world ranking in tennis.
It's a feat only ever achieved by three other Swiss: Jakob Hlasek, Marc Rosset and, of course, Roger Federer. On Sunday Wawrinka enters his first tournament as world number ten.
If Federer had not been fixed at the top of world tennis for the past four years, Wawrinka would have been the one making headlines.
"I hope that the Swiss are aware that this is something exceptional," commented the resident of French-speaking canton Vaud, who has been ranked in the top ten for just under a fortnight.
"Since Federer has won practically everything in recent years, it all appeared too easy."
After Spain, (Nadal, Ferrer) and the United States (Roddick, Blake), Switzerland (Federer, Wawrinka) is now the third country to boast two members in the top ten.
It is a real first on the men's circuit since the introduction of the ATP ranking 35 years ago.
Hingis and Schnyder
Spring of 2008 belonged to the 23 year old. And the French Open, which starts on Sunday, is looking good for "Stan" who could quite possibly enter the second round of the Grand Slam as number nine, after the forfeit of the American Andy Roddick.
Swiss men are hitting just as hard as women did in 2006, when Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both made it into the top ten.
Since the start of the year, Wawrinka has already done battle in two finals on the ATP circuit - in Doha in January and in the Masters series in Rome in mid-May, where only Novak Djokovic (world number three and best player on the planet in 2008) put an end to his rise.
In the run up, Wawrinka had taken on Marat Safin, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick, three former world number ones.
A childhood dream
"I still find it hard to believe. My childhood dream has come true," he admitted.
"When I open my eyes, I see that all those hours of training have finally paid off."
Ranked 36th in January and 24th at the start of May, Wawrinka has moved into fifth gear.
"I have become a much more complete player. At all levels, be they psychological, physical or technical," he explained.
He confirmed as much in his semi-final in Barcelona and his quarter final in the Masters series in Indian Wells, proving that he could win repeatedly against the best.
But Wawrinka is keeping his wits about him, conscious that everything could quickly fall apart. The memory of a serious knee injury in the spring of 2007 is still fresh.
He remained on the ball after a number of weeks before suffering mortifying defeats in August, later recovering his natural rhythm.
"I have really had to weather periods of doubt, but I would say today that it has made me stronger," he said.
He says his next goals are to continue his rise, without setting too definite goals for the moment apart from doing well at Roland Garros.
"I feel under more pressure with this new status," he confided. Having said that, Roland Garros, on his preferred surface, is his favourite tournament.
The rise of Wawrinka should logically have repercussions for Swiss tennis, with the probable return of Federer in the Davis Cup, starting from the first tour in 2009.
The world number one has always said that he intends to make a serious return, to have a real chance of taking home the silver trophy. That day appears to have arrived.
Born in Lausanne on March 23, 1985, Wawrinka is 1.83m tall and weighs 78kg.
He made his professional debut in 2003, did battle for the time in the Davis Cup in 2004 and took home his first tournament title in 2006.
After a knee injury in February 2007, he returned and reached two finals during tournaments in Stuttgart and Venice. Since the start of the 2008 he has continued making progress, winning two finals, and figures today among the ten best players in the world.
SWISS IN THE TOP TEN
Stanislas Wawrinka is the fourth Swiss in history to be projected into the top ten.
Jakob Hlasek (at the age of 23) was the first to enter on November 21, 1988 (ranked 8th). He remained for less than a year, until October 9, 1989, peaking at 7th for one week.
Marc Rosset of Geneva followed on July 9, 1995 (ranked 10th). The 24 year old only stayed in the top ten for three months, reaching 9th position on September 11, 1995 .
Roger Federer entered the top ten for the first time on May 20, 2002 at 8th place. He stayed ther for several weeks before exiting. He returned definitively to the top ten on October 14, 2002, where he has remained ever since.