Five years ago, Stan Wawrinka produced one of the best performances in a Grand Slam final when he defeated Novak Djokovic in four sets to lift La coupe de Mousquetaires and his second of three Grand Slam titles. Despite being held back by a knee injury and parting ways with coach Magnus Norman, the man who helped unlock his true potential and develop his mental toughness, so far Wawrinka has shown signs of his 2015 winning run in his opening two rounds.
A new outlook
Last week, Wawrinka’s partnership with Magnus Norman came to a sad end. They decided to part ways after a surprise opening round defeat to Lorenzo Musetti at the Foro Italico in Rome. Any tennis fan who has followed the game closely over the last decade or so will recognize the impact that Norman has had on Wawrinka’s career. When people think of the great coaches on tour, many think of the likes of Toni Nadal, Ivan Lendl, and Marian Vaida. Magnus Norman’s name deserves to be on that list of great coaches.
The level of tennis Wawrinka produced in his Grand Slam winning years of 2014, 2015, and 2016 was some of the highest quality offensive tennis the game has ever seen. During those years, Wawrinka beat every member of the “Big 3” in the Grand Slams. The 2015 Roland Garros final saw the Swiss player being able to punch holes in Novak Djokovic on the game’s slowest surface.
Norman’s departure signifies a new outlook for Wawrinka. Some have criticized the Swiss player’s game for being inconsistent and too aggressive. Whilst it is true that his game is unpredictable, when he plays his best tennis he is almost impossible to beat.
What does the future hold for Wawrinka? Whilst it is true that he is nearer the end of his career than the beginning–and with more and more young players coming through–it will be tough for him to win more Slams. However, the conditions at this year’s Roland Garros couldn’t be more favorable for his game.
A Genuine Contender
The conditions in Paris this year are different than any other. The tournament has seen play under the roof of the Phillipe Chatrier court for the first time. Roland Garros has also controversially changed the tennis ball from Babolat to Wilson. This decision has not been popular with players such as Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal. With the ball becoming heavier and slower due to the heavy conditions, this should be more favorable for Wawrinka, who will have more time to wind up on his groundstrokes. He is one of the few who has the firepower to be able to hit opponents off the court, as seen in his opening two round wins over Andy Murray and Dominic Koepfer.
Round 3 sees Stan face Hugo Gaston, the last remaining Frenchman in the men’s singles. If the Swiss gets through that match, a mouthwatering encounter with Dominic Thiem could be ins tore in the fourth round. Although Djokovic, Nadal, and Thiem are seen by many as being the main contenders for the title, it is important to never underestimate the threat of Stan Wawrinka. A fourth Grand Slam title is certainly not out of the realms of possibility. In an uncertain year, one thing remains clear. Stan Wawrinka is still a major threat and powerful force in the men’s game.
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