By Anil John/ Doha
Being part of an era where three of the greatest tennis players in history are still active and winning most big titles, Stan Wawrinka probably has lost out on a lot of fan following and millions of dollars in earnings.
But the 34-year-old Swiss is one of the most-respected players among his fellow pros, most notably for his fighting qualities which have seen him win three Grand Slams among his 16 titles.
John McEnroe is of the opinion that he has one of the most powerful backhands ever, describing him as having “the best one-handed backhand in the game”.
Wawrinka’s more illustrious compatriot Roger Federer called him a “legend with already a fabulous career behind him” last October and he is widely known as a “big match player” by pundits and peers alike for winnings 11 consecutive finals.
But inconsistency has been the late-bloomer’s biggest problem throughout his career. He has a 100 percent win record against World No 1 players in the finals of Grand Slams, having beaten Rafael Nadal (2014 Australian Open), Novak Djokovic (2015 French Open) and Djokovic again (2016 US Open).
But the script changes drastically when he is meeting them in other matches, where he has won only one of his 20 ties against the world’s top player, with the single victory coming against Andy Murray in the semi-finals of the 2017 French Open.
Wawrinka, who is a 2008 finalist in Doha, would like to bring more consistency to his game and is hoping to go one better this time here, after preferring to play in Doha rather than head to the ATP Cup in Australia.
“It’s always been a good tournament here in Doha. It’s good preparation for the season ahead and the conditions too are great for the players,” said the World No 16.
In fact coming off the long off-season, Wawrinka is keen to get as many hours of tennis under his belt as possible and has even entered the doubles competition where he is partnering Frances Tiafoe of USA.
“At the end of last season I didn’t play many matches, so I thought I’d spend some time on the courts. I enjoy playing.”
Having landed in Doha a few days ago, he has been up and about, visiting various tourist sites in Qatar, including the National Museum of Qatar with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
“I’ve been here a few days so I thought why just practice and sit in the hotel and instead do some activities.”
The 34-year-old who had two surgeries on his knee in 2017, climbed from 263 in the world rankings to 16 by the end of last season and reckons he has a good chance of finishing in the top-10 by the end of this year.
“I would want to be in the top 10 but at the same time I have to see how I stay the whole year and the year is long.
“So I’ll see how it goes. I want to win some matches and make some good results.”
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