Somewhere between the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Stanislas Wawrinka officially became ‘Stan’.
The accompanying explanation was that the longer version of his name was complicated to say and harder still to write. It might also be true that the shortened version reflects the no-nonsense approach that has helped the Swiss to new heights in 2014.
Certainly it was all very business-like as Wawrinka, Wimbledon’s No.5 seed, progressed to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over Denis Istomin that took just an hour and 26 minutes. “The way I play in three sets was perfect today for me, perfect start to do it quickly,” he said. “(I’m) playing well.”
The only hint of trouble appeared early, when Wawrinka saved three break points in the fourth game of the first set. He staved off two of them with aces, helping him to the 12 overall that would prove influential against the No.45-ranked Uzbekistan player. Wawrinka didn’t face another break point for the match.
Another concern was of a medical variety, when Wawrinka fell heavily at the net as he chased a drop shot in the second set. It took a worrying moment or two for the Swiss to get up but he was soon back cracking winners – 33 by the end of the match – with impressive efficiency. “Everything (is) OK,” he said.
Istomin would have appreciated that same luxury. The doctor was called to the court in the second changeover of the second set, with the 27-year-old complaining of an overall lack of power. Adding a powder to his water didn’t greatly improve Istomin’s obvious lethargy, Wawrinka having already nabbed a decisive break in the fourth game of that set and gaining another one in the opening game of the third.
“I'm happy with the way I'm playing, playing really aggressive. Serving well to do it in three sets was a perfect day,” he said. “Now I'm going to take some treatment and rest and get ready for tomorrow.”
Wawrinka has good reason to maintain such focus at the All England Club, having followed his Grand Slam breakthrough at the Australian Open with a first-round loss to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez at Roland Garros. The positive flip side to that unexpected disappointment was more time to prepare on grass, with a first appearance at Queen’s since 2011 resulting in a semi-final run.
“It's not the surface that I have the best result. Again, I will say when I lost, I still love to play on grass. My game fit well on grass. I'm feeling especially well,” he said. “I had more time before the tournament to get ready.”
It all helps as Wawrinka anticipates what could be a busy second week at Wimbledon, with Monday’s third round match held over after rain delayed play on Saturday. But, for now, it’s only one match that matters and that’s a fourth round meeting with Feliciano Lopez. “Tomorrow is going to be a really tough match,” he said.
Already this tournament matches Wawrinka’s best result at Wimbledon, the Swiss having reached the round of 16 in 2008 and 2009. “The confidence, my level, everything I did since the beginning of the year. I'm playing my best tennis this year, so I'm happy with that,” he said.
Having dropped just one set at The Championships, so far, the momentum is pleasing. “I’m not going to be happy if I lose tomorrow that’s for sure,” said the world No.3, whose growing ambitions are unmistakable.
Whether it’s as Stan or Stanislas hardly matters; the increasingly capable Swiss is simply determined to keep on making a name for himself.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
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