He won the French Open, you know, beating Federer and Djokovic to do it. Just when everyone believed that the world No. 1 couldn’t be beaten on any surface, along comes 30-year-old Swiss world No. 9 and Federer Fed Cup compatriate Stan Wawrinka to show the tennis world that it can be done.
It didn’t happen over night. And Stan Wawrinka isn’t just a flash in the pan. Will he amass 17 major titles like his fellow Swiss player Roger Federer? Maybe not. But after many years of struggling and belief, he’s finally come into his own.
Everyone at the water cooler will probably be talking about the latest epsiode of Game of Thrones, or maybe American Pharoh taking the Triple Crown, but for those in the tennis know, the topic at hand will be the French Open and this man Wawrinka.
Here are 10 things you need to know so you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
1. It’s pronounced “va-VINK-ah.” Honestly, you make a funny face when you say it properly, so your best bet is to just stumble through this part of the conversation. Whisper it if you have to. But don’t over-pronunciate. You’ll look like a mole who just came out into the light.
2. He’s Swiss, 6-feet tall, and has been playing professionally for 13 years. For most of his career he’s been overshadowed by the other Swiis pro. You know, his last name rhymes with Shmederer. Lately, though, he’s been smashing forehands like his life depends on it. It was only a matter of time before he started winning big tournaments.
3. His only other Grand Slam win was the 2014 Australian Open, though he reached the semi-finals of the 2013 US Open, and the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open. So, he’s been trying to break into the Elite 4 for some time.
4. His nickname is “Stan the Man.” He even has it written on his rackets. He officially changed his name from Stanislas last year to just plain “Stan.” After winning the 2014 Australian Open, Wawrinka’s manager made a statement that “Stanislas is long and bulky in the written form, also not easy to pronounce. There was always confusion. Furthermore him anyway call all, ‘Stan the Man.'”
5. He has a tattoo on his left forearm in italic script that quotes the Irish writer Samuel Beckett in English: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” On his right arm he has his daughter’s name, Alexia.
6. He won the gold medal in the 2008 summer Olympics playing doubles with Roger Federer.
7. Wawrinka considers clay his best surface and his serve and backhand his best shots. John McEnroe believes that Wawrinka has one of the most powerful backhands he has ever seen and describes him as having “the best one-handed backhand in the game today”.
8. His parents run a farm in Switzerland that assists people with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, and people with depression or drug and alcohol problems. This is where Stan grew up.
9. Stan lives in Saint-Barthélemy, just north of Lausanne, Switzerland, with his wife, Ilham Vuilloud, a Swiss television presenter and former fashion model. He once separated from his family to devote himself to tennis full time, but has since returned to living with his wife and daughter.
10. Wawrinka denied Novak Djokovic a career Grand Slam of winning the French. Sorry, Djoker. Wawrinka had the slight advantage of an extra day’s rest before the final. Djokovic’s five-set semifinal victory over Andy Murray was contested over two days, finishing on Saturday afternoon after being halted at 3-3 in the fourth on Friday evening.
He’s extremely humble and unassuming. He doesn’t travel with an entourage, no nutrtionist, no personal assistants. He once posted on Instagram: “A person who’s nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.” He’s Stan the Man. And if you met him, you’d probably like him. A lot.