By Sandra Harwitt
Here’s what comes to a player with winning a Grand Slam title: A SPECIAL KIND OF CONFIDENCE.
Sure there are many players out there that walk with a swagger and have tremendous self-belief and never wrap their arms around a Grand Slam trophy. But whether you had that attitude before or not, once you’ve earned the stripes of being a Grand Slam champ a player naturally possesses a poise from knowing they’ve conquered the greatest challenge in the sport.
Take Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka. Here’s a man who spent most of his career in the shadow of serious greatness as in Roger Federer. There was no escape. At times it was even hard to get people to notice that the 15,940 square mile Alp entrenched nation of approximately 8 million people had two star players in their midst. It’s not easy scoring recognition when you’re up against 17 Grand Slam trophies.
That was until last year when Stan the man cruised into the Australian Open as one of 128 contenders and left hauling home the winner’s trophy and check after a sensational four-set final victory over Rafael Nadal.
Later in the year, his teaming with good friend, Roger, at the end of last year to deliver the Davis Cup title to Switzerland only enhanced his stock in the sport.
Hello Stan. He became a champion and the world looked differently at him. And Stan also sees himself in a new light.
Now into the Australian Open semifinals, Wawrinka processed the 2015 Stan at the Australian Open from the 2014 Stan: “I know that now I have a Grand Slam at home. I have the Grand Slam trophy. I won the Davis Cup also. I have the confidence from that. I know I can make it. I trust my game. I trust myself on the court even when we start to play semifinal or final in Grand Slam. Apart that, it’s a new year. It’s going to be a new semifinal.”
Wawrinka will take on world No. 1 Novak Djokovic – a big task with the way the Djoker is playing – in that semifinal. Wawrinka insists he feels no special pressure as the defending champion – whether that’s just talk only Stan knows: “As I said before the tournament, I don’t feel pressure by defending the title because I don’t come here to defend it. I come here as a new challenge, a new Grand Slam. That’s how I start the tournament. I’m really happy to be already in the semifinal, to play that well so far. As I say, I’m going to enjoy it because it was really important for me, this match, especially the way I deal with the pressure to play (Kei) Nishikori (in te quarterfinals). It’s never easy for me, for my game. So I’m going to enjoy, watch the match tonight and get ready for the semifinal.”
And in case you’re wondering about Wawrinka’s game this year here’s what he had to say: “I think I play better. But I think we all improve every year. I’m more aggressive. I’m more confidence with my game when I come to the net. Again, it’s a Grand Slam. You play every two days. Today was a great level, was a great match.”
No matter what happens in the semifinals against Djokovic, no one can ever take away from Stan Wawrinka the fact that he is the real deal.