It’s because of Novak that I am where I am: Wawrinka
We all know that Roger can beat anybody anytime when he’s healthy and fit: Wawrinka
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in front of an enthusiastic Chennai crowd. The fans there are amazing,” Wawrinka said
MUMBAI: He’s the Swiss ace few would fancy beating in a Grand Slam final. Why, even World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has had a go at it twice only to fall short on both occasions. No, we aren’t talking about Roger Federer but the 17-time Grand Slam champion’s late-blooming compatriot, Stan Wawrinka.
In an exclusive interview with the TOI , the newly-crowned 31-year-old US Open champion talks about his success against the Djoker, the possibility of completing a rare Career Slam and why he loves playing in Chennai and more. Excerpts:
Since January 2015, Novak has been playing at a level where he’s often looked invincible. But, you’ve found a way to outplay him twice, both times in a Slam final. What is it about your game specifically that gives Novak such a hard time?
As I said in my speech after the final, it’s because of Novak that I am where I am. Against him I need to play my very best, go to my limits, take risks and fight as hard as I possibly can. If you look at our head-to-head, you see that he’s way ahead. But somehow I managed to play my best tennis against him on several big occasions, hang in there and win some huge matches in Melbourne, Paris and now in New York. I take risks, and with my powerful game, I can put a lot of pressure on my opponents when everything works the way it did in Paris and New York.
Roger’s lost his last four Slam meetings with Novak, including three finals. If he were to meet Novak in a Slam again, he may well consider coming to you for some advice. What would you tell him?
First of all, I wish Roger all the best on his way back. We all know that he can beat anybody anytime when he’s healthy and fit. He has an excellent coaching team around him with Severin (Luthi) and Ivan (Ljubicic). Our discussions are different, it’s more like two friends exchanging opinions and discussing about tennis than one giving advice to the other.
After the US Open final, you revealed you were shaken and even cried moments before the game because the ‘fear of losing a Slam title round’ took over you. After losing the first set, did that fear haunt you, or did you draw strength from what happened in the final of Roland Garros 2015?
Once you are on court everything is different. I focus on the match. Losing the first set hurt, but you need to keep going. I was there, playing my game and playing well. So there was no reason to panic. Playing a best of five-set match you can always bounce back even if you lose the first set. That happened to me in the past as you said it also happened in the Roland Garros final. So OI I really know that it doesn’t mean that much.
Since the first of your three Chennai Open victories in 2014, you’ve won a Grand Slam each year. Your fans in India, and Chennai especially, would like to think there is some connection…
I don’t know if there’s a connection. But what I know for sure it that ‘ve always enjoyed playing in front of an enthusiastic Chennai crowd. The fans there are amazing.
Will you return to defend your Chennai crown in 2017?
I’m currently still working on my schedule for next year. Nothing has been confirmed yet as I’ve been pretty busy during the last few weeks.
The sight of you pointing to your head while looking at your coach Magnus Norman during key moments of you matches has almost become you trademark. Apart from the mental side how has he helped you technically?
Coaching is very complex, it’s like a puzzle and many things need to come together to make it work. That’s the case with Magnus. He’s done some excellent work with Robin Soderling in the past as well, he’s been a top player himself and knows the game extremely well. I like his vision of the game, the way he speaks to me. It’s also much about timing, doing the right thing at the right moment or knowing when you need to change your game when something is not working. I can be stubborn sometimes and Magnus knows how to approach me and push me to go even further and keep improving.
You said you never imagined winning a Slam. You’ve now won three of the four. Considering that you haven’t progressed beyond the quarters at Wimbledon, do you believe that you can accomplish something historic at the All England Club with the game that you have?
For sure it will be different now that I have won the other three Grand Slams. I’m trying to improve on grass every year. This year it hasn’t quite worked out, but of course, I’ll keep working hard and will do everything possible to do better and go even further than the quarters. My game takes time to adapt to grass, grass is a little bit different.
It’s faster and tougher for my game. We’ll see how it goes.
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