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What will Wawrinka do next?

Stanislas Wawrinka at Australian Open 2014
by Mark Hodgkinson
Wednesday 5 February 2014

Stanislas Wawrinka interrupted the stronghold of the former Big Four on the majors for the first time since Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009 with his unexpected win at the Australian Open. Is it the start of much success to come? Wimbledon.com wonders...

A glorious English summer of failure potentially awaits Stanislas Wawrinka. Of the 127 men in the 128-player draw who won't win the gentlemen's singles title at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, Wawrinka promises to potentially fail better than anyone else. Why, he might even do as he did at the Australian Open last Sunday evening, and fail so wonderfully at failure. 

Both singles champions at Melbourne had ink on their skin - Li Na has a rose on her chest, a floral indication of her rebellious nature - but, of the two pieces of body art, the most revealing of a player's character was the Samuel Beckett quote tattooed on the inside of Wawrinka's left forearm: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Fail again. Fail Better." And, with every swish of his racket, Wawrinka has recently been living up the words of the Irish playwright - at Melbourne Park, he defeated both Novak Djokovic and the stricken Rafa Nadal on the way to winning his first slam. 

Already, thoughts are turning to how Wawrinka might fare at Wimbledon this summer. It's not as if Wawrinka, the new world No 3 and the new Swiss No 1, could fail much worse in his Wimbledon whites. While Wawrinka now has very respectable career highs at the other three majors - he has appeared in a US Open semi-final and a Roland Garros quarter-final - in recent years he hasn't played his best tennis in south-west London. That's not to say that the Wimbledon Queue have only recently become aware of him. He's long been the answer to a quiz question - who was Andy Murray's opponent in the fourth round of the 2009 Championships when the Briton played the first full match under the new, closed Centre Court roof? There have been four Wimbledons since then, and Wawrinka won a total of just one victory from those tournaments, including failing to win a match the last two summers. 

Wawrinka isn't one of those players who thinks grass is for alpine cattle; he can play on the stuff as he demonstrated before last summer's Wimbledon when he made the final of a warm-up tournament in Holland, where he was the runner-up to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut. You could say that the Wimbledon gods weren't kind to him last June as he was paired up with Lleyton Hewitt, a former champion on Centre Court, who still has the game and the bloody-minded nature to hustle almost anyone out of the tournament. Still, even allowing for that, one victory from Wawrinka's last four visits isn't an adequate return for someone of his ability. 

And Wawrinka would appear to have the game - with an aggressive backhand, as well as a lethal forehand, and a fine serve and decent volleys - to do well on the sport's original surface. The self-belief, too. With Wawrinka, as with almost any other player who has ever stepped on the grass, it's about confidence. Over the past year, Wawrinka has never looked so assured of himself, and victory at Melbourne Park would have chased even more self-doubt from his mind. So what's to stop him believing he can go deep into the Wimbledon fortnight, reach a first quarter-final and then keep going? 

There will be two Swiss men with one-handed backhands and Swedish coaches to follow closely at this summer's Championships. So Roger Federer, a winner of seven titles at the All England Club, will be playing his first Wimbledon since hiring Stefan Edberg, a former champion, while the man in Wawrinka's corner, Magnus Norman, never went beyond the third round during his playing career. So there's plenty of scope for improvement here for the Wawrinka-Norman alliance, plenty of opportunity for failing much, much better.  

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