My generation of tennis fans was already incredibly lucky to grow up watching two of the best tennis players of all time, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, in their prime years.
What a period the last three years has been for Stan Wawrinka.
The fluent, artistic right-hander was seemingly destined to become an unfulfilled talent with questionable mental strength.
However, something incredible has happened to – or because of – him over the last three years.
He has gone from a player people treated like a rotund puppy dog – endearing and fun to watch, but of no threat to anyone – to a ruthles, stone-faced perfectionist. Someone who performs when it really matters.
Wawrinka and Andy Murray now have three slams each, with Murray also earning eight runner-up trophies in majors. If tennis were a team sport however, I’d pick Wawrinka to be on my team before the Scot. Firstly, he plays expressive, inspiring tennis. Secondly, rather than capitulate and combust under the lights of the big stage, Stan rises like a furious tide, sweeping up his opponents (no matter how great) along the way.
Wawrinka’s last three years have been a blessing for men’s tennis, a sport that was growing dull. Rather than the pulsating serve-and-volleying of Pete Sampras, or winner-a-minute shot-making of Roger Federer, the likes of Novak Djokovic and Murray have made it seem as if the only way to win slams is to turn the sport into an endurance test with rackets.
While Djokovic and Murray are champions and deserving of multiple slams, they don’t produce the type of tennis that makes you gasp in exhilaration. Both seemingly go through an entire match barely hitting a winner that isn’t a passing shot.
Wawrinka winning has given hope to aspiring players that tennis doesn’t have to be an iron man contest on a court. Stan has proven that aggressive, daring shot-making can surpass the back-of-the-court grinding that has become so prevalent. With Federer not winning a slam for over four years, we needed what Stan has given us since early 2014.
Congratulations Stan, and long live attacking tennis.