Stanislas Wawrinka is the second most famous Swiss player and well used to being kept in the tennis shadows. The experience of flying under the Swiss and international tennis radar due to Roger Federer’s huge success means that he has been able to work diligently on his game and work his way into the top ten (he was ranked No.9 in June 2008).
He admits that playing Andy Murray on Centre Court at Wimbledon, in front of a nigh-on jingoistic crowd, will be one of the biggest matches of his life.
Yet it must be remembered that Wawrinka, ‘Stan the Man’, is not averse to pressure. Who can forget his antics when collaborating with Federer during last year’s Olympics doubles tournament, conquering world-renowned doubles specialists Bob and Mike Bryan in the semifinals and triumphing in the final to win the Olympic Gold medal for Switzerland.
Wawrinka was able to enter the tennis top ten last year after reaching the finals of the Masters 1000 Event in Rome, eventually loosing to Novak Djokovic; throughout the tournament he demonstrated considerable skill, technique and tenacity to win over the likes of Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and James Blake.
He also beat Federer on clay earlier this year in Monte Carlo (before loosing again to Djokovic) showing that he is not afraid of counterpunching with the best players on tour.
The 24-year-old Wawrinka from Lausanne is a softly spoken man, which only adds to his anonymity in tennis circles. Despite this, he has reached the fourth round at Wmbledon for the second year in a row with a 5-7 7-5 6-3 6-3 victory over the American qualifier Jesse Levine.
Currently the No. 19 seed and ranked 18 in the world, Wawrinka certainly merits his place among the elite. He possesses one of the best backhands on tour, all of his groundstrokes are heavy and loaded with spin, but his favourite surface is clay, arguably the antithesis of the Centre Court grass at Wimbledon.
No doubt the grass has slowed down in SW19 to rival clay court characteristics (has the baseline ever been so dusty so early in the tournament?), but he will be very much the underdog when he takes on the world No. 3 on Centre Court.
Murray and Wawrinka are good friends on the tour, but good feelings will be left in the lockeroom as Murray continues his quest to become the first male Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray leads Wawrinka 4-3 in their head-to-head meetings, the most recent of which was at the US Open last August, a match Murray won in straight sets.
Aggressiveness, consistent serving, solid groundstrokes and an occasional venture to the net are the key tactics to assume in this match. Whether Wawrinka can actually enact this, on the most famous and one of the largest courts in all of tennis while facing a popular, talented, and dangerous opponent, remains to be seen.