Stani's Interview, Tennis Magazine, April 2007
This is a translation I've made of the interview Stani gave to French Tennis Magazine, April 2007.For many people, I'm the Swiss guy who loses
Interview by Guy Barbier.
TM: You've been victim of a serious accident on the court, on Feb 8th, before the DC 1st round between Switzerland and Spain, in Geneva. How are you?
SW: During a training session, after the draw, I indeed injured my right knee pretty seriously, on some wrong foot. I've felt the knee slip and I heard some cracking noise. The pain's been really violent, to the point it was almost a shock. I've had some medical test that said that my inside ligament was torn at 2 points. So, I've had to have surgery, on the following morning, at 11am. The surgery lasted for 2 hours. I could have avoided the surgery but it was too risky for a sportsman. It was better on the long term.
TM: How long will you be away from the court?
SW: From 10 to 12 weeks. That's of course a big disappointment. Pretty soon, I'll be able to begin my re-education in swimmingpool. That's really frustrating because I was playing well, I was climbing the rankings. That's my 1st big injury. Physically, the pain's been horrible for the first 2 days. Mentally, that's also some hardship that I'm discovering. At best, I'll be back on the tour for Rome.
TM: Did your compatriot Roger Federer send his sympathy to you?
SW: He calls me every day, even several times (smiles). That's nice.
TM: You're the Swiss n°2 and then, n°2 to the world n°1 Roger Federer. Mustn't be easy to catch some light in such circumstances....
SW: No, that's not really easy. But, as in everything, there's a positive side as well as some negative one. Thanks to him, there's some huge interest in tennis in Switzerland. And me, I have that luck to know him very well now. We're buddies, we can say so. If I need advice, he's always there for me. I know his phone is always turned on and that's precious. Consulting the World n°1, not everybody can do that!! So, imagine being able to do it regularly.......(smiles)
TM: But in the Swiss press, it's bound to be less space for you, all the more now that Martina Hingis also makes the headlines. How do you live this situation?
SW: It's true he gives the impression to take all the place and that's of course the case. As he wins almost all the time, for many people, I'm a bit the Swiss guy who loses (smiles). But when it comes to the media, I'm also the Swiss who stays accessible as, unlike Roger, I don't have many international journalists interested in me (smiles).
TM: His presence isn't too heavy then?
SW: No. The aura of a champion like Federer is even protective for me. I grow up, quietly in his shadow, without big pressure on my shoulders. If you have a look at my ranking evolution, you'll see that I've always had a very regular progression, even a quiet one.
TM: But you're ambitious, despite Federer....
SW: Yes I am ambitious. I've always had my line. I know what I want and I know where I'm going. But he protects me, it's true. I move forward, step by step, without making too much noise.
TM: When we interview Swiss journalists about you, it's always the same words that come along: discreet, shy....Are they right to qualify you that way?
SW: Yes they are (smiles). I'm not somebody who likes to put oneself into the light. I'm pretty reserved, a bit in my corner, in my small stuff. When I was younger, I was very shy, it's true. But I have the feeling I have improved myself on that regard, I have more self confidence.
TM: This exercise of the interview, for instance, is it demanding? During the AO, before your match against Rafael Nadal, we could feel you were extremely defensive while facing the Swiss media.....
SW: The 1st times have been very tough. But it remains sort of excercise and I think it's gonna be this way because of my very reserved personality. It's never easy for me to express myself in front of a lot of people, even if, I repeat it, I think I've improved a lot on that regard (smiles).
TM: Is there a big difference between the guy in its life and the guy on the court?
SW: No, there's some similarity. On the court, I don't play a game. I try to be as natural as possible. Like in my life, I try to be quiet and not show my emotions to the one facing me. Quiet, discreet, peacefull, shy, those are really words that suit me (smiles). And also will, yes, the will.....
TM: We feel a lot of demand...
SW: Yes, I ask a lot from myself. Sometimes too much (smiles). I'm very perfectionist, it's true. On the court, I can hurt myself "inside" because I can't hit properly, and this, in a match as well as during trainings.
TM: But, as we say, you never go crazy?
SW: No, I hurt myself inside and I take everything on me. I must have broken 3 rackets last year, 1 a bit silly when training (smiles). When I have a problem, I try to solve it by myself. I keep all in me and it's true it's not necessarily the solution. I should talk more about how I feel. I try to work on that too.
TM: Without mental coach?
SW: Without mental coach. At the moment, my progress's been stopped. And I don't see any reason to add one more person to the team.
TM: You've said it yourself, your career's known a rising pattern and your ranking today allows you to live some great moments. You've already played on the Center Courts of Wimbledon, in Melbourne, on the Suzanne Lenglen in Roland Garros. How do you feel that powerfull rising?
SW: That's something I've always dreamed of. I love it when there's crowd. That's to live such moments that I train hard. I'm calm. As I've said, I didn't have an up & down career. All's been very regular so far. And the only time I've had doubts concerning tennis was when I was 12, 4 years after I started to play.
TM: What happened when you were 12?
SW: I had a friend who wanted to play basketball. So I had the idea to imitate him (smiles). But my parents, who wished a certain balance through sport practise, have told me to keep on what I had started.
TM: And you made the choice to quit school very young, at 15, so that you could devote yourself to your sport....
SW: As my school refused to allow me particular times to train more, I've been bound to make this decision. But I didn't quit totally from school as I've kept on my studies thanks to the CNED, which is a French organization. It hasn't been very easy to work alone at home, but I've resisted for several years. With always the same rhythm: 8am-10am: studies. 10am-noon: tennis. 14pm-16pm: tennis. 16pm-18pm: studies.
TM: Who was keeping an eye on you?
SW: My parents, though they didn't need to look much after me, as I was very strict in what I was doing. Otherwise, there was my coach who's still with me today, Dimitri Zavialoff.
TM: At no time you were part of the Swiss training system?
SW: Never. When they offered it, I had already accomplished some good work with my private coach. It was a bit late. I've decided I had more chances to progress thanks to him than to them. It wasn't worth it.
TM: Dimitri Zavialoff is French, from Colmar. How did he enter your personal life?
SW: Our families knew each other for long. His parents and mine were close since they were very young. In fact, they had been seeing each other since they were kids. He had a try in tennis, but he stopped very quickly. When he was coming home for a holiday, he then often took care of me. Then, he went to an Academy that Bob Brett had created, near Lugano. Once this experience stopped after 2 or 4 years, I can't remember, he totally dedicated himself to me. Also a bit with my elder brother who wanted to have a try with me. He's now a tennis teacher for kids, between Lausanne and Geneva.
TM: Dimitri's brother's also part of your team?
SW: Yes, he takes care of my contracts, he negociates them. Actually, everything got a bit fast for me in Switzerland, since I won RG Junior in 2003. The media got more interested in me and I needed some help to cope well with that other side of my professional life.
TM: That victory at RG has been very important. The sollicitations must have become more numerous, all of a sudden.....
SW: Firms like IMG or Octagon have had propositions for me. But I didn't see the point to accept them, as I have the feeling that they don't do much effort for you; if you're not n°1 or n°2, you come last. They have so many players, so many stars. As n°2 in Switzerland, behind who you know, I don't see what they could have offered me (smiles). I needed someone more specific so that I could find some sponsors in Switzerland.
TM: Like Roger Federer, you have that specific that you have very diverse origins....
SW: Actually, I have a double passport, Swiss-German, but I am Swiss, and I have always felt good in my country. My mother's Swiss and my dad's German, given his origins are Czech. It happens that Wawrinka's a Polish name because I had a great grandfather who was living on the border between Poland & Czechoslovakia.
TM: Did you already go there, searching for your origins?
SW: When I was 6 or 7, we drove there. It lasted for about 3 weeks if I remember well. I kept some images on my mind.
TM: Your parents, who weren't in the tennis world, did they support your choice?
SW: They never went against my will. They've always supported my choices even if they weren't playing themselves and even if they were living in a universe totally away from mine today (smiles).
TM: Very far from that indeed....
SW: They run a farm in Switzerland which is actually a social center and curative place. It's just next to a castel from which the farm is only some yards away. It's not theirs, it's owned by the owner of the castel. They run it and handle it.That's a farm where everything's biological. There are vegetables, wheat, they bake bread, without forgetting of course, the animals, the milk. My parents are in charge of the whole production, and, at the same time, they take care of disabled people, sometimes, extremely heavily, who they try to help thanks to the work on the farm. The people live in the castel but work on the farm.
TM: How many years have they been developing this concept?
SW: That's very old as my dad's father was already in this adventure. The castel is owned by an institution that's been developping that insertion process for dozens of years. That's a place I've always known, even though it's changed a bit lately, as there's been some work to renovate the flats and the stables. I've grown up there and I go back there pretty frequently.
TM: So, that was a pretty rural childhood?
SW: Very rural indeed. With my dad, I just loved to go to the fields. Harvesting, that was a real pleasure (smiles). The harvest time.....
TM: Do you still have some spare time to help them?
SW: I go back there pretty often, but now, I am pretty busy in summer (smiles). So I have no time left to harvest with him.
TM: What's your parents's temperament?
SW: My dad's quiet, peacefull, he keeps all for him. He doesn't talk too much (smiles). My mum's more expressive. If there's a problem, she'll tend to say it straight.
TM: Growing up among disabled people, that's bound to be an experience for your entire life time.....
SW: Yes, of course. All the more that they are mentally disabled. Some new ones have arrived lately, but there are 11 old mates. Out of the 11, 4 of them were already there when my grandfather was running the farm. The other 7 ones, I have been knowning them for numerous years. Some are 60-70 years old.
TM: Did you tie great bonds with them?
SW: As a matter of fact, yes. I've grown up with them. Now, when I come back to the farm, they tell me that's great because they've seen me on tv. They tell me bravo, you've won! When do you play again? That's crazy because they've seen me when I was a baby.
TM: But were you with them all the time when you were a kid?
SW: No, not all the time. We had our own home. And I was having breakfast and diner with my parents. But lunch was common. I was eating with all the residents.
TM: Today, you're living in a world that's radically different from the one you used to grow up at the farm.....
SW: That has indeed nothing to do (smiles). The experience I've had at the farm helps me take my distance with all I see and live today. Puts things into perspective. But that doesn't mean it helps me accepting a loss. I won't consider it smaller because I know there's worse in life.
TM: Earlier on, you were saying you're ambitious. What are your goals?
SW: My long term goal, I've never said what it is and I'm gonna keep it for myself (smiles). I've always advanced with reasonable goals per year. In 2007, for instance, I'd like to be part of the best 20. Seems possible for me. As long as I am not in the Top 20, why should I look higher?
TM: You were born in 1985 like Marcos Baghdatis and Tomas Berdych, and so, you're a bit older than those who are talked about a lot, like Rafael Nadal, Richard Gasquet, Gaël Monfils, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray.....Do you feel like you're forgotten when we talk about that generation?
SW: No I have no bitterness as to that. These you're talking about have already done great things, which hasn't been my case so far. At the moment, Nadal is the strongest of all thanks to his results. Winning Roland Garros twice in a row isn't something that anyone can achieve. Otherwise, Gasquet's someone who's always impressed me because of his precocity and his talent (smiles).
TM: We're bound to talk about Roger Federer with you. Some former champions say today that his opponents respect him too much, that they just look at him, playing and winning. What is your opinion?
SW: Me, I tend to say that against Federer, you play better than usual (smiles). Because you have nothing to lose. The respect he causes has nothing to do with that. When I've watched his matches in 2006, I've often thought that the guys he was playing were more inspired than usual (smiles).
TM: You've played him twice. The 1st time was in Rotterdam, in 2004.....
SW: At that time, I didn't know him so well and he hadn't won all those titles he has now. But that was impressive. The stands were full. That was something.
TM: And when did you meet him for the very 1st time?
SW: I was 16 and it was in Bienne, at the Swiss training center. He needed a sparring partner before RG. We had trained for 1h30. He was number 12 at that time, I think. But I was already stressed (smiles). The 1st points had been exhausting. Not because of the effort but because my heart was running 300 (laughs).
TM: It's like, with the years passing by and with glory, he didn't really change.
SW: No. With me, he never was haughty. He never did anything different to have me feel he was above me. He stayed simple. That's even extraordinary to see that.
TM: How's your relation with him today?
SW: It's not easy to describe. Without being pretentious, I think we can say we're buddies (smiles). We call each other often, we also text each other even if most of the time, it's total crap (smiles). It must not be the best way to say it but he's a bit my older brother on the tour. He's always told me his cellphone was on if I needed advice or had questions on some ooponents. What's great is that he only gives me advice if I ask for some. He will never interfere intentionally. He lets me come and make the 1st step (smiles).
TM: And do you often call him?
SW: Often, no. But it happened several times last year. I've also asked him for advice on how to handle a career because what's also noticeable with him, it's that he's found a balance on every level. It's like everything's in order, professionally and privately. He's an example also for that.
TM: Were you disappointed that, one more time, he decides not to play the DC 1st round against Spain?
SW: He's got aschedule and I respect that. He's got his priorities and one of them is to remain n°1. At the time, I've been disappointed, but I totally understand his decision. It's not so much that with him, it would be easier, but he would make DC weeks even nicer because we get on very well.
TM: But he wants to win DC. Maybe he's waiting for his n°2 to assert himself which means you, so that he finally considers about aiming this high goal.
SW: Maybe, maybe. Up to 2003 and this semifinal lost against Australia, he was still playing, but maybe he's seen he was too isolated. Yes, he's waiting for a tougher team and also undoubtedly for a calendar which is easier or more adapted to him.
TM: We underlined it, you won RG Junior in 2003.
SW: Yes, and that was the only junior event that I played that year. The junior events, they really didn't have much importance for me. Actually, they had none (smiles). I've played it because it was RG and it was on clay, my fave surface. As a kid, that's the event I was watching the most. I could spend hours in front of my tv. So, I wanted to win at least a title there (smiles).
TM: What are your memories from RG, as a viewer?
SW: I really liked a lot Alex Corretja and so, I remember well, his 2 finals against Moya and Kuerten.
TM: To finish, it seems you've become a character more "people" in Switzerland lately...
SW: (smiles). Yes, because I live with someone who works for Swiss tv. So she's a bit famous in French speaking Switzerland, and she was also a model. She's older than me. When I started to date her, people started to talk a bit (smiles). It's 1 year and a half now that we're together and she brought me a lot of stability. I've found a balance between work and my private life. When I come back home, she's there, and that's good. At the moment, we live in Geneva. But we're trying to come back to Lausanne which is more relax. In Switzerland, you have a very peacefull and quiet life. Like me (smiles). I don't see myself live somewhere else.
Best of LUCK to ALL my Faves in 2015