MUTUA MADRID OPEN 2014
Mutual Trust The Key To Wawrinka's Rise
by James Buddell|
Stanislas Wawrinka, last year's Madrid runner-up, starts every tournament he enters now as a title favourite.
The seeds were sown for his all-conquering transformation 12 months ago, when he captured the Portugal Open title — his first ATP World Tour trophy for more than two years.
On 5 May 2013, he experienced an epiphany when he outclassed David Ferrer, 6-1, 6-4, in the Oeiras final.
In an exclusive interview with ATPWorldTour.com, Wawrinka admitted, “I felt after the tournament that I had achieved something really special. Not only to win the title — because I had not won a title in two years [since the 2011 Aircel Chennai Open] — but also to beat a strong player like David, who was No. 4 in the world and really tough to play especially in finals. I knew something good would come.”
The triumph at the Estadio Nacional came just two weeks after he had started working with Magnus Norman, a former World No. 2, who had his own career curtailed by injury at the age of 28. At the time of their union, Wawrinka said, “I have no doubt it will bear fruit with hard work and dedication.”
“What he did with Robin was amazing and that’s why I pushed to get him,” said Wawrinka. “When I started with Magnus I knew for sure that he had something special as a tennis player and a coach. I didn’t expect our partnership to be as good as it has been, but I am really happy and he is a big part of my success.”
Wawrinka had spent 22 weeks in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings in 2008, the year he won the Beijing Olympics doubles gold medal with Roger Federer. But his fellow Swiss, Yves Allegro, believes that he was not quite ready to make a long-lasting impression among the elite.
“In my opinion, in 2008, Stan was already a great player, but he was not ready — not mature enough as a person and as a player to stay in the Top 10,” Allegro explained to ATPWorldTour.com. “He used to be a very shy guy and it took him time to feel good and very confident on the court."
Norman and Switzerland’s Davis Cup captain, Severin Lüthi, have both helped effect a positive change. Adds Allegro, “He really believes that he can beat anyone and I don’t think that deep inside, in the early days, he believed it.”
Norman told ATPWorldTour.com, ahead of this week’s Mutua Madrid Open, “Trust, acceptance and respect is everything between a player and a coach.
“If the player doesn’t trust the coach and what he is saying the messages will not come across. If the coach does not believe in the player it will also show in the daily work.
“You also have to accept that all people are different. You have to accept the differences and you have to respect each other. You also have to show respect to yourself as a player, meaning that sometimes it’s good to step outside this world and tell yourself that you did something great. Otherwise this life will be way too demanding.”
Wawrinka has compiled a 55-18 match record with Norman, including five final appearances. This year, his Australian Open and Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title runs confirmed Wawrinka’s pedigree as a major force.
“Mentally he has given me a lot of confidence,” said Wawrinka. “He trusts me, he recognises the level of my game and that has helped tremendously.
“At this level, minor changes can make big changes in your ranking and winning matches. For sure, Magnus has helped me on the practice court, changing my forehand a little bit and also other parts of my game.”
Norman believes that one of Wawrinka’s biggest assets is his “tremendous amount of respect for fellow players, to his fans and to his team.”
Wawrinka, now placed at No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, maintains a strict training regimen. He arrived early in the Spanish capital.
“I have always been a hard worker,” said Wawrinka. “It’s the only way to improve. My fitness trainer of many years, Pierre Pagnini, is one of the most important guys in my team, and I really enjoy our work. Both Pierre and Magnus push me. When I step out on the court with Magnus, we always try and improve something. That has been really important.”
This week, at the Caja Magica, Wawrinka will be looking to improve on last year’s runner-up finish to Nadal, the World No. 1 and three-time Madrid champion. “I’m doing the right things, but I need to compete well year-round,” he admitted. “Then, I will be better placed in the rankings.”