In the final of a three-part series, Stan Wawrinka talks to rolandgarros.com about his journey to becoming a two-time Grand Slam champion.
The Stan behind the man: Part III
What role has Magnus Norman played in your success?
Much of it is down to him as well [as fitness coach Pierre Paganini]. Two weeks after he joined me, I was up into the top 10! After that, can we actually say "He helped me with this, that and the other?"… It’s not as clear as that. It’s a whole bunch of things, starting with it being the right time for everybody involved. He arrived at what was probably the time when I was ready to take it to the next level. Maybe if he’d have arrived earlier, it wouldn’t have worked, or wouldn’t have worked as well. But I get the impression that with him, at that precise moment, I managed to get everything in place and it worked better than I had hoped for. I can’t speak for him as to what his expectations were though.
You were the one who approached your coach, Magnus Norman, and you had to work on persuading him for a long time. Why him in particular?
I’d just spent two years without an official coach. I had seen Magnus’s work with Robin Soderling. He had got him to the final of Roland-Garros twice, taken him from No.30 in the world to the top 5. I’d spent a little bit of time with him, had some practice sessions with him ... I had a feeling that, as he had done with Robin, he would be able to give me something that I was lacking in order to get to the next level. And yes, he certainly did make me chase after him for a good few months (smile), because after his experience with Soderling, he wanted to spend some time with his family and travel less. I know that a lot of players tried to get him and he refused. And then he said yes to me.
He lost one Roland-Garros final as a player and two as a coach ... Was your victory your gift to him, in a certain sense?
The French Open win took on extra meaning for him, yes. And I really am delighted that now, he can say that he’s won Roland-Garros.
How far did you think you would be able to go as a tennis player when you were a kid?
My aim was just to try as hard as I could, practise as much and as well as I could to go as far as possible. My dream was to be a professional player, but what are the limits of a professional player? I suppose that when I was really young, my aim was the top 100 so that I could play in the Grand Slams. That was the ultimate dream. But everything always went in stages. There was never a particular moment when I said: "one day I’ll be in the top 100, for sure". The day I said that was the day I made it into the top 100. Not before.
And at one point did you say to yourself: "I’m going to win a Grand Slam?"
That’s still difficult to believe, you know (laughs)! When I look at what’s happened to me over the past three years ... I never hoped that I would reach that particular level. Winning two Grand Slams ... Even the first time I got into the top 10, I still used to watch Grand Slam finals as a spectator! I saw Roger rack them up, I saw Nadal and then Novak, who were both younger than me, challenging him. For me it was too far away from what I thought I was capable of. So obviously when I look at what I have accomplished these past few years ... I like how my career has worked out. It’s not the traditional way because I wasn’t an early bloomer, but I am very proud of it.
Nevertheless, are you aware of the fact that you have gone down in the history of tennis?
I am. I see it when I look at what I’ve won: two Grand Slams, the Davis Cup, Olympic gold with Roger ... Yes, I am aware of what I have accomplished in tennis. I think that it’s only when I stop playing tennis that I will truly be able to take it all in.