OutSTANding WOWrinka: The rise and rise of “the Other Swiss” – TheLiberal.ie – Our News, Your Views

OutSTANding WOWrinka: The rise and rise of “the Other Swiss”

If one were to be quizzed about Swiss tennis players, the first couple of names to do rounds – in all likelihood – will be Roger Federer and Martina Hingis. A distant third could be Marc Rosset – gold medallist at the 1992 Olympic games. And then there was a fourth… Talented, yes, but never really thrust into the spotlight. Until now.

 The author ponders why this fine gent has always remained hidden when Switzerland and tennis are mentioned in the same sentence.


Back in 2009, it was John McEnroe – no less – who described this genial Swiss’ backhand as “the best one-handed backhand in the game today“.

Was the American referring to *the* Swiss player that had come to define tennis? You could be forgiven for thinking so. 

Instead, McEnroe was alluding to “the other Swiss“. The “other half” of the Swiss duo that took home the doubles gold medal in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.

Stanislas Wawrinka. He of the nearly effortless, yet emphatic shotmaking that mixes power and deftest of touches. 

The same 6-footer who cut a forlorn figure after his heartbreaking loss to Novak Djokovic at the 2013 edition of the Australian Open. Enric Molina, the chair umpire who oversaw the epic, may have robbed him of a crucial point earlier in the match, but “Stan the Man” was disconsolate and distraught.

More pain at the highest level would be in store, as he would be dealt yet another gut wrenching loss by the Serb – this time at Flushing Meadows.

You wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that is how the theme of his career has been, leave alone specific tennis seasons. After all, this was the man who lost five straight tournament finals between 2007-’10. So near… Yet so far. “Stan The Nearly Man”, or so he was deemed.

One of the lesser known facts about the 28-year old is that, as a youngster, he was sent to “spiritual science” school – where he was taught the values of humility and living a life of peace. These lessons – delivered through sacred incantations (or mantras, as they say) – have made the man that we see. The soft-spoken and seemingly unruffled Wawrinka. 

Stan is not found wanting for motivation, though. He may not be a power monger, but that doesn’t imply that his seemingly laid-back demeanour isn’t lacking in competitive fire. 

In 2013 alone, he scored 9 wins against top-10 opponents. That equalled his tally over the previous four years put together (2009-’12). And certainly a far cry from what the Sunday Times glumly opined back in 2009, that Wawrinka “is a strange player, clearly talented but short of match fitness and as clumsy on court as Federer is graceful.

Therein lay a supposedly solemn truth – he was doomed to be in the shadow of his more celebrated compatriot, and good friend, Roger Federer. 

Cut to 2013 again, he was likened to a man on a mission. Willing himself on despite shattering losses – the aforementioned 5-hour classics against Djokovic, a 7-hour doubles marathon against the Czech Republic, and not to mention a handful other close matches on Tour – the affable Stan was sending out a message. He was on the rise. Again. And he didn’t require the surname “Federer” as an attestation to his tennis credentials. 

If only someone would tell that to tournament organisers too. It was rather unfortunate to see the folks at Oeiras quiz Wawrinka about Federer when it was his moment to soak in the love and adulation – it was, after all, his first victory over a top 10 opponent in the final. The crowd, in the meanwhile, seemed to come even more alive only upon hearing the word “Federer”. 

In another dimension, a parallel universe maybe, Stan’s achievements at the end of 2013 (4 titles, 1 Grand Slam semifinal, 3 Grand Slam quarterfinals and a career-high rank as world #8) would have probably been shown under much richer light in his homeland.

May be 2014, one is tempted to think, will be the year when Stanislas Wawrinka finally breaks his hoodoo… 

Enter, then, 2014.

Our protagonist is unbeaten to start the year, including titles in Chennai and… wait for it… the 2014 Australian Open. En route what is easily his greatest triumph to-date, ‘Stanimal’ redeemed himself against two players legends who have caused him a lot of heartache in the past – Novak Djokovic (QF) and Rafael Nadal (F) – thereby becoming the only person to have beaten the Serb and Spaniard on the way to a Grand Slam title.

Now that Father Time has seemingly caught up with his illustrious countryman, it will be interesting to see how this gentleman will stand up to the opportunity.

The title of Switzerland’s top ranked tennis player is now his, as is the tag of being the worlds third best player. His mettle – though – will surely be tested, time and again. 

But come what may, Stanislas Wawrinka will be ready. Why won’t he, when often reminds himself [and us] the words that he has chosen to live by…

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

– Samuel Beckett (Worstward Ho, 1983)

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