No. 2 Swiss Gets Cozy in Federer’s World
by JOSEPH PLAMBECK, Aug 30, 2008
He’s Swiss, yes, and he’s in the top 10 in the men’s draw. But Stanislas Wawrinka could have used a few more of Roger Federer’s attributes to ease the stress of his five-set match on Saturday at the United States Open.
Wawrinka partnered with Federer in doubles at the Beijing Olympics, where they won a gold medal, and he considers Federer one of his best friends on the tour. When asked what parts of Federer’s game he wished he possessed, the answer came quickly: “Everything.”
Federer’s game and its long shadow, Wawrinka said, has helped him sneak up in the rankings with relatively little notice. He moved up quickly after turning professional in 2002, and is now ranked 10th.
“We’re lucky in Switzerland to have Roger,” Wawrinka, 23, said. “It’s good for the Swiss people and for the young generation. To me, he is the best player ever. The most beautiful game that you can watch, because he’s doing everything easy. You think it’s easy, but it’s not easy.”
Wawrinka definitely did not make it look easy on Saturday. He needed 4 hours 14 minutes, rallying from two sets down against Flavio Cipolla, an Italian playing spirited tennis in just his second Grand Slam event.
Using what looked like the simplest strategy — just keep the ball in play — Cipolla returned practically everything Wawrinka hit his way, using a mix of solid backhands, timely volleys and well-placed drop shots. Wawrinka said he tried to just extend the match, thinking that Cipolla would get tired.
That strategy did not always look as though it would work. Wawrinka continued hitting unforced errors (88 in all), expressing his frustration with scowls. In a point somewhat typical of the match, Wawrinka hit an easy overhand out of bounds while up by 6-5 in the second set, and Cipolla went on to win the game and then the set. In the end, though, Wawrinka triumphed, 5-7, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-0, 6-4.
This tournament was by far the best Grand Slam showing by Cipolla, a 24-year-old who had to play the tournament’s qualifying rounds to get into the main draw. His highest ever ranking was 110th. In his only previous major appearance in singles, at the French Open in 2007, he lost to Rafael Nadal in the second round.
After the match, Cipolla refused to shake Wawrinka’s hand. Cipolla said that he endured cramps for several sets, and might have pulled a leg muscle, but that Wawrinka shouted and gestured toward him during the match as though he were faking an injury. “You don’t want to shake my hand?” Cipolla said Wawrinka asked him at the net. Cipolla’s response: “Of course not.”
Wawrinka said after the match that he thought Cipolla ran around fine when playing well but then came up lame when he was not winning. “I always have respect of the adversary,” Wawrinka said. “After playing for four hours, or a little bit more than four hours, it’s a little bit hard not to get frustrated, to just play and not say, ‘Come on,’ or something. After the match, it’s over. You can say hello.”
Wawrinka has matched his performance in last year’s Open when he made it into the Round of 16, which is the deepest he has made it in a Grand Slam tournament. He will next face Andy Murray of Britain, the sixth seed, who Wawrinka said is also one of his best friends on the tour.
“I like to play against friends sometimes,” he said. “You know you’re going to have a good match and try to play well.”
Just don’t expect him to ask for any pointers from Federer. When they saw each other in the locker room this past week at the Open, they instead reminisced about their Olympic win.
“We joke a lot together,” Wawrinka said. “But the jokes are private.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/sports/tennis/31sidebar.html