He’s not exactly a physical specimen. Stan Wawrinka is not abundantly tall (6-feet), he’s a little pudgy in the middle and his fashion sense leaves a lot to be desired. He lacks the dashing profile of his Swiss counterpart, Roger Federer, but that didn’t stop him from besting Roger, fan-favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Men’s World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to winning the 2015 French Open.
The Big Four have officially been put on notice. Since 2010, only Wawrinka and Marin Cilic (2014 U.S. Open) have managed to win a Grand Slam outside the monopoly of Nadal, Federer, Murray and Djokovic (from 2005-2010 it was the Big Three—sans Murray—who won every major except Marat Safin’s 2005 Australian Open victory and Juan Martin del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open title). Wawrinka has now captured two, the 2015 French title alongside his 2014 Australian Open crown.
Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are a cinch to market, and despite Andy Murray’s quiet Scottish demeanor, advertising campaigns can be built around his height (6’3”) and “good-chap” persona. But Stan Wawrinka is more of an everyman, he looks like he could just as well be a Silicon Valley developer or your friendly neighborhood Uber driver. That said, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe were goofy-looking too, but they had their American bravados to fall back on.
Perhaps Wawrinka is aware of the challenges he faces on Madison Avenue and Wall Street. At the post-match French Open final press conference, when asked about his choice of short pants, Wawrinka responded tongue-in-cheek: “It’s just like that everybody talk about that shorts (sic). I quite like them. Apparently I’m the only one. They will be in the museum of Roland Garros. You will see my shorts every day if you want.”
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 7, 2015
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) June 7, 2015
That is not the response of a man concerned about his image. Refreshing in an age where global marketing strategies go side-by-side with winning. The ladies may not swoon over Stan The Man like they do for Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, but he seems to be developing a rapport with the press, and that could go a long way towards positioning him as a “likeable tennis star.”
Sponsors may not exactly be lining up at Wawrinka’s door just yet, but the 30-year old Lausanne native does currently have the backing of Subaru, Evian and Yonex—the designers of those infamous pink-checkered short trousers.
Taking down two of the last six Grand Slams is no small feat. In the tennis world, he is something of a late bloomer. The only thing flashy about him is his shorts. But if he keeps performing at majors at his current clip, he’ll become something more permanent than an advertiser’s darling: he’ll be a tennis legend.