2013 was arguably his career-best season on the tour as he finished with a 51-23 match record. Add to that a career best ranking of No. 8 and the Swiss No. 2,Stanislas Wawrinka, enters the 2014 with a great chance of winning a Grand Slam. He puts forth a strong case for the expectations as he proved to be a giant killer with nine wins against Top 10 players in 2013. But on the flip side does he have the appetite, zeal and the game to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who proved to be his nemesis during the year? Read on to know more.
Wawrinka started the year with an epic match against the Djokovic in 4th round of the Australian Open. A marathon 5-set match lasted for five hours with the match swinging to and fro quite a few times. It was tennis at its best and on the edge of the seat one for the fans. Wawrinka drew first blood racing to a 6-1,5-2 lead to stun Djkovic with a master class display of fiery groundstrokes and impeccable single hand back-hands. He broke the Djokovic serve five times in the second set and the Wawrinka game had left the world No.1 off balance and gasping for breath.
But Djokovic got his opportunity when Wawrinka leading 5-3 30/0 in the second set lost four-points in a row. Djokovic eventually took the set 7-5 and carried on the momentum snatching the third set 6-4. But Wawrinka concentrated hard in the fourth as Djokovic up the ante and the fourth set went into a tie breaker with the Swiss winning it with a thunderous down the line forehand.
Djokovic would eventually hang-on to his nerves in the decider as he broke to draw level 4-4 and it continued on serve till 11-10. Wawrinka saved two match points on his serve but lost a 20-points rally and with it the match.
Djokovic rightly labelled it as one of the best matches he had played. The duo went up against each other in the US Open semi-final(it was Wawrinka’s first Gland Slam semi-final). While the match went into a five setter again, it wasn’t comparable to the one at the Australian Open. Both matches proved that the Swiss didn’t have enough gas to win against Djokovic and only had himself to blame missing out on quite a few opportunities.
Wawrinka found it tough against Nadal as he lost to the King of Clay, first in the Madrid finals despite making to the top-10 for the first time and later in the French Open quarter-finals. Despite his losses to Nadal, Wawrinka proved that he had the power to beat higher ranked players(Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych in Madrid and Richard Gasquet in the French Open).
He won his first ATP title since 2011 at the Portugal Open defeating No.4 David Ferrer. An Olympics Gold medal winner in doubles(with Roger Federer), Wawrinka added another feather in the 2013 cap as he reached the semi-final of the ATP World Tour Finals with wins against Berdych and Ferrer. But Djokovic was far too god for the Swiss again as he won in straight sets.
While he has proven that he can battle and win against the top-10, its Nadal and Djokovic that Wawrinka needs to be wary of if he has to win a Grand Slam. A 0-12 record against Nadal and a 2-17 against Djokvic proves that he needs to condition himself for the big matches especially against his two big-opponents and stick to his strengths. It’s all about having the confidence of beating either of the top-seeds that may help get that extra zing and killer punch in his game. Coach Magnus Norman has certainly brought his game to the next level but there is just one more step that Wawrinka has to take to win big. Wawrinka would have to get out of the shadows of Roger Federer and prove himself as a true Champion, a feat his countryman has proven time and again.