Thursday, October 20, 2016

STAN WAWRINKA'S Slow and Steady Journey

It’s often up to the luck of the draw for when an athlete can successfully perform record feats and hit milestones in his career. That could be said about the recent events in the career of Swiss tennis player Stanislas Wawrinka, or “Stan” Wawrinka as he now prefers to go by on tournaments draws and when meeting the press. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold medalist (alongside famous fellow Swiss Roger Federer in the Men’s Doubles) has been a regular presence in the Grand Slam tennis tournaments since 2004-2005 (the latter year being his Australian Open debut), but it was in 2014 that he started gaining significant prominence for what he does on the court.

Let’s start with the most recent, as reported by ESPN. In a hard-fought Sunday September 11 finals match for the Men’s Championship, Wawrinka overcame an early lead by opponent and somewhat rival Novak Djokovic of Serbia and pulled off a hard-fought victory in nearly four hours and four sets: 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. It was remarkably impressive considering that Wawrinka’s prior matches took far longer to conclude than those of Djokovic, twice as long, even. Still, with his one-handed backhand and power forehand, the Swiss came through and humbled the Serb – the current number 1 tennis guy in the top quartet alongside Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – to win the 2016 US Open for the first time.

At 31 years old and with 46 wins in the tournament, Wawrinka has wrested the title of oldest US Open champion from 1970’s Ken Rosewall. This is also his third Grand Slam title, having won Men’s Singles in the Australian Open in 2014 (beating that year’s number 1, Nadal) and the French Open in 2015, where he also took on Djokovic in the finals. Winning a championship over the current men’s number 1 for the past three years – even if only for a single Grand Slam event each year – spoke volumes for Wawrinka’s Grand Slam abilities.

The thing with Djokovic needs further elaboration. The two men are good friends and have played in men’s doubles often enough, but in single play against each other they have been highly competitive. Wawrinka’s 2016 French Open win ruined Djokovic’s attempted Grand Slam sweep for that year; and this 2016, when the Serb was of a mind to match Federer’s record of three Grand Slam titles for two years in a row, he was frustrated again by Wawrinka last September 11, incidentally the 15 th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks.

But as things go, there are really no hard feelings between them. After the championship match Djokovic told Wawrinka, "This has been absolutely deserved today. You were a more courageous player in decisive moments." And in an interview he summed up the reason for his rival’s victory: "He was the tougher player mentally."

As for Wawrinka himself, he feels in the mood for a rest as, in his words, “I think I played quite a lot of tennis these two weeks. I am completely empty."

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