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Stan Wawrinka Crashes the Party
By Rosecrans Baldwin
http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/stan-wawrinka-crashes-the-party-20140620

"I love to drive," Stan Wawrinka said, gunning his borrowed Audi through a yellow light in downtown Miami. As of April, the 29-year-old is the third-best men's tennis player on Earth, even if he hasn't yet learned to act like it. Wawrinka doesn't travel with much of an entourage – there's no nutritionist on call, no hired hands to carry his luggage. He is Swiss; gracious, humble, and unassuming; the sort of guy who posts on Instagram, "A person who's nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person."

Indisputably, the past decade has been a golden age of tennis, but the era's glitter stuck to only an elite gang of four. From June 2005 until this past January, all but one Grand Slam tournament was won by someone named Federer, Murray, Djokovic, or Nadal. Wawrinka always hung in there, even occasionally beating the top seeds, although to casual fans he was known as the second-best player in Switzerland. His friend Roger Federer is considered by many to be the best player ever. Wawrinka agrees. He has told anyone who will listen that he isn't bothered by playing in the great one's shadow. After all, Federer's not just some dude – he's a buddy, a supporter, and an occasional doubles partner. He and Wawrinka joined together in 2008 to win a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Wawrinka is an underdog's underdog – reserved off-court but a wunderkind when holding a racquet, with all the modern accoutrements: big serve, outstanding fitness, and a balletic, one-handed backhand that may be the finest in the game. But for all his skill and precision, he simply didn't win big matches. Worse, he never looked as if he thought he should.

Until he did, in January, when he won the Australian Open.

Before "Stan the Man" – Wawrinka's inevitable nickname in the press after his Melbourne triumph – there was Stan the Teenage Farmhand. Stan grew up working on his parents' farm in Lausanne, Switzerland. When he was eight, his parents told him and his brother to choose a sport. Five minutes up the road was a tennis club. "That's it," Wawrinka said, shrugging, when I asked him, Why tennis? "That's just how it goes."

At 15, he devoted himself to the game full-time. He's been on the circuit for about a decade, occasionally winning smaller tournaments or making inroads at the majors, eventually losing to one of the top players. Commentators praised his dramatic shot-making, his decorum, his foot speed. Yet for a decade Wawrinka remained one of the guys who might win a major one day.

In March, days before the Sony Open in Miami, Wawrinka was number three in the ATP rankings. Federer was number five. As we drove, Wawrinka talked about the state of the game and why it isn't really possible for young phenoms to break into the sport's top rankings. "They don't have the strength at that age," Wawrinka said. "They don't have the maturity."

He had a point. As of March, the average age of the top 10 players was 27½. Contemporary tennis has become an older man's game, and the elders, like elderly people anywhere, aren't going to budge easily from comfortable seats.


Before he was known for his grit, Wawrinka was known for his losses. In 2013, he and Djokovic played a classic match at the Australian Open: a fourth-round bout, which the Serb ultimately won * – but only after five tense hours, in a riveting 22-game fifth set, on a third match point with a winner that made people gasp. When that ball shot past, Wawrinka fell to his knees. He cried in the locker room. He said in the press conference, "In the end I lost, and the disappointment is there, and the disappointment is enormous."

He concedes the loss had been harder to stomach than most. How could it not be, when he'd been so close? "It was different than the others because my level was way better than I'd ever played," he said slowly. "It was the first time I was playing that well in a Grand Slam, against the number one player in the world." He nodded to himself. "That match gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year."

That year, Wawrinka would go on to play four ATP finals, finishing in the top 10 for the first season in his career. His first tournament of 2014 was the Australian, where he beat an injured Nadal, but just making the final was a feat. By beating Djokovic and Nadal on his way to the trophy, he became the first player since 1993 to eliminate the top two seeds at a Grand Slam.

I brought this up in the car. Wawrinka merely smiled modestly.

His left forearm is covered with a tattoo, a quote in script, from Samuel Beckett, the playwright who wrote so well about despair, it makes sense that he was also an avid tennis player: ever tried. ever failed. no matter. try again. fail again. fail better.

He got the tattoo shortly after that loss to Djokovic, but it was already in the works: "I love tattoos. I don't know if I'm going to get more, but I love them." He showed me another, on his right torso, a drawing of his daughter's hands. So I asked: Surely the Beckett tattoo related to his tennis at that time? He shook his head. He paused, thinking about it. "You need to be sure before you get a tattoo. When I'd found [the quote], and I was sure, I just did it." But he agreed it pretty much summarizes the tennis player's life.


Back in the car, I asked him who his favorite player was as a kid. "Sampras," Wawrinka said. "Always Pete Sampras."

"You know the quote, right?" I asked. "Sampras said after Australia that he wished he had your backhand."

He cracked up.

"Yeah, and I want his trophies."


After Miami came Monaco, where Wawrinka reached the finals, and across the net was a familiar opponent: Roger Federer, who'd beaten him in their last 11 matches. But that was a different player back then – one lacking a champion's validation. In Monaco, it was Roger's turn to lose. Wawrinka clinched the match, 4–6, 7–6, 6–2, failing the best way he now knew how.
 

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Ofcourse he is right. I've been echoing this for quite some time.

For all the dickheads saying Dimitrov has done nothing for his age. We all need to consider the fact the game as evolved, HUGELY. Players have been allowed to take their bodies and fitness to a whole new level and this comes from years and years of hard-work and body conditioning. Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and even Ferrer are years and years ahead of these younger guys, ABSOLUTE YEARS. Not only mentally and tactically in terms of their tennis, but also physically, for what they can be allowed to make of their tennis. (Esp at slam bo5)

Dimitrov has made the right move. He has gotten together with Roger Rasheed who has taken his strength and fitness onto a better level. Slowly we can witness he is developing into an incredible athlete across and along the court.

It makes me sad that people on here slated Dimitrov for not making his breakthrough and being into his 20s, but now he has, they are calling him a 'pusher'. How pathetic and sad. He is simply a better athlete now a days and is therefore able to stay more patient during the rally and time his attacks for more OPPORTUNE MOMENTS.

 

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Not only Dimitrov, you can look at Kei as well. Physically he and Dimitrov have not been able to make a deep run in a tournament until they are at least close physically to their veteran counterparts.

A guy like Raonic for example who doesn't exert as much energy on court is far more consistent in the last few years than Grigor/Kei. But obviously Milos hasn't shown the next level which is needed to beat the top guys on a regular basis. Kei and Dimitrov haven't done that either but as they mature both physically and mentally they might start to get more victories under their belt. Kei was so close recently to beating Nadal ON CLAY!


In the past years you could be a party boy, or physically not the most professional player and get by simply because no one else was as focused on the physical aspects of the game. You had different surfaces so players would not be all surface specialist thus a younger player could get further up the rankings simply by making a deep run in one of the slams. Now all of the top 20 need to be consistent through out the year because everyone is playing on all surfaces and top players go deep on all surfaces thus collecting more points.

Look at Milos ranking right now and how it benefits him in different tournament draws :D It's so hard for young players to be consistent enough to get in such a position and thus benefit from better draws. Guys like Ferrer would never do as well consistently as they have in recent times - 20 years ago Ferrer would likely have a better chance to win a slam but would never been a consistent top 5 player.
 

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not true

there is no logical argument that young players today aren't or can't be strong enough to do it. so for like 40 years young players of practically every generation were capable of breaking out, but now NONE can? I don't believe it

maybe in a different sport, but in tennis it's all about movement and endurance, something a 20 year old should have plenty of.

it's all mental. the mental strength is missing because we have a horrible batch of young talent and young minds, not because of the top of the game. there has always been a top and there has always been a bottom of the game, but lately the difference between is growing not necessarily because of the top but because of the terrible youngsters

pick any young generation of the last 30 years and you will find a number of talented prospects and talents from the age of 18. the past like 5 years? almost none.
 

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Speaking of Dimitrov, has there ever been a player with such a steady, linear progression in his development? No major breakthrough, no set backs.
 

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To be competitive in matches of best of 3 sets strength is not a very important factor, especially when top player aren't in their top form out of Grand Slams either. Obviously in any sport prime is always around 24/25 years, so guys like Dimitrov, Nishikori or Raonic are entering in his absolute prime now and this coincides with players who dominated the circuit until now are declining our leaving their prime (Nadal, Federer, TSonga, Berdych, Ferrer, Verdasco, Del Potro etc.). If they don't start to making some serious noise now and for the next three years they will be a complete fiasco.
 

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In the past years you could be a party boy, or physically not the most professional player and get by simply because no one else was as focused on the physical aspects of the game. You had different surfaces so players would not be all surface specialist thus a younger player could get further up the rankings simply by making a deep run in one of the slams. Now all of the top 20 need to be consistent through out the year because everyone is playing on all surfaces and top players go deep on all surfaces thus collecting more points.

Look at Milos ranking right now and how it benefits him in different tournament draws :D It's so hard for young players to be consistent enough to get in such a position and thus benefit from better draws. Guys like Ferrer would never do as well consistently as they have in recent times - 20 years ago Ferrer would likely have a better chance to win a slam but would never been a consistent top 5 player.
I agree. The game in today's day and age requires such commitment and dedication. It almost serves those best whom treat it as an obsession, or a religion, not go a day without doing it.

It's not because players were never focused on the physical aspects of the game before btw,you're mistaken there. There are just more advancements in sports science now a days, it enables players get the absolute maximum out of their bodies potential. The awareness on nutrition is ridiculous, but never mind that, all detailed stuff like when to have ice baths, how-many hours sleep you should have; all sorts of different stuff...

Players didn't have these perks in the 2000s, 90s, 80s. (And rest of the open era) Now these discoveries have been all well 'tried and tested' all the 'trial and error' has paid off and they've managed to whittl it down and find the best training routines/methods that work for a set of particular tennis athletes in the modern game. Same for nutrition, recovering from injuries and guidance on how to ease back to full match action. Everything.

Let's also consider Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, Federer and co all have their own body-conditions, fitness coach, physiotherapist.... an entire team .... Murray was doing belay the other day and entered into yoga many years back. It's ridiculous the amount of perks professionals have at their disposal than compared to before. These guys are always going to be one step ahead of the chasing challenger pack and that is why they are all so dominant at slams and masters events, nobody can knock them off their perch.

Breaking through for Grigor and Nishi is gonna be hard. I don't wanna talk about Raonic in that bracket, because he is not an athlete imo; just a disgrace to the game.
 

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Although he beat Rafa in a ugly way, his level of play is amazing still!
 

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To be competitive in matches of best of 3 sets strength is not a very important factor, especially when top player aren't in their top form out of Grand Slams either. Obviously in any sport prime is always around 24/25 years, so guys like Dimitrov, Nishikori or Raonic are entering in his absolute prime now and this coincides with players who dominated the circuit until now are declining our leaving their prime (Nadal, Federer, TSonga, Berdych, Ferrer, Verdasco, Del Potro etc.). If they don't start to making some serious noise now and for the next three years they will be a complete fiasco.
It's also important to not be light-weight. David Goffin's major problem is his physicality. Dimitrov after teaming up Rasheed has developed a lot of strength in his legs and it's allowed for him to use more purchase from his lower body when going into shots. His serve has improved drastically and I bet you that has a alot to do with the extra power he gets from his legs. :yeah:
 

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Although he beat Rafa in a ugly way, his level of play is amazing still!
Don't begrudge him that victory. As much as I wanted to see Rafa win the AO, Wawrinka was the most impressive player over the 2 weeks. A deserving champion.
 

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Yep, in the last 15 years, the "nutrition" and "training", and "working hard" has improved dramatically. The old days (1990's), the players were all fat, lazy, party animals.

Ya, that explains it.:rolleyes:
 

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Don't begrudge him that victory. As much as I wanted to see Rafa win the AO, Wawrinka was the most impressive player over the 2 weeks. A deserving champion.
I mean, he can beat a healthy Rafa with that level,though Rafa in Spartan mode wouldn't make it easy. I just feel sorry he has to win the title in that way and can't celebrate his victory to the full.
 

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I mean, he can beat a healthy Rafa with that level,though Rafa in Spartan mode wouldn't make it easy. I just feel sorry he has to win the title in that way and can't celebrate his victory to the full.
Well, he was gracious and also very nice since he's a good friend of Nadal's and massive respect to him for that. Not many would have behaved that graciously.

Sure, a fully fit Nadal, who knows what would have happened? It was just nice to see someone else win for a change, and who better than the guy who played the best tennis over the 2 weeks to win the slam?
 

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not true

there is no logical argument that young players today aren't or can't be strong enough to do it. so for like 40 years young players of practically every generation were capable of breaking out, but now NONE can? I don't believe it

maybe in a different sport, but in tennis it's all about movement and endurance, something a 20 year old should have plenty of.

it's all mental. the mental strength is missing because we have a horrible batch of young talent and young minds, not because of the top of the game. there has always been a top and there has always been a bottom of the game, but lately the difference between is growing not necessarily because of the top but because of the terrible youngsters

pick any young generation of the last 30 years and you will find a number of talented prospects and talents from the age of 18. the past like 5 years? almost none.
Not quite.

Building inner fitness, strength and endurance isn't as fast as you think. Once you get to a certain level of fitness, it takes longer to increase that level. There's a thing called hitting a plateau. This is where you just continue doing the same training methods that got you to a certain level of fitness, but it can take you no further. That's where the advancements in methods for training etc come into play. There have been a lot more studies done on how to overcome 'plateauing' for example.

It really isn't just all in the head I'm afraid. Being young means nothing, you may have more enthusiasm as a youngster but that doesn't mean you immediately possess the natural fitness, strength and stability a more mature athlete has taken years and years to form.



Recognise this young fella? Recall when he could not match Nadal for fitness?

What about Djokovic and his health related issues? Inconsistent breathing patterns during matches? Before 2010? You suddenly forgotten all this? The he ran into a guy that introduced him into going gluten-free, after they tested over his body and realised he was allergic to something in most regular foods?

The reason the young guys can't match the older is because the older have a 'head-start' ... it's not something that they can develop in the flick of a switch.
 

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If Nadal plays Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, are you going to become a "Djokovic fan" again (just for the day) ?
I am always the best critics of Djokovic. If he browses MTF an reads my words he can easily become the second best champion behind Rafa in the history of tennis. This legitimates me as his best supporter in a sense. But too late now, he can only become the second best runner-up behind Lendl.
 

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Trolls already on the invasion to ruin any debate. :facepalm: We need a separate section called 'serious discussion'.
 

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Well, he was gracious and also very nice since he's a good friend of Nadal's and massive respect to him for that. Not many would have behaved that graciously.

Sure, a fully fit Nadal, who knows what would have happened? It was just nice to see someone else win for a change, and who better than the guy who played the best tennis over the 2 weeks to win the slam?
Don't mistaken me, I am a Wawrinka fan too. I just think it is a regret not being able to fight till the very last point for your slam win, just like Mauresmo's first slam. I hope he can win another slam like Mauresmo by earning it in the final himself. maybe this year's USO. I think he can play great on hard court!
 
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