Stan Wawrinka’s love affair with Roland-Garros began in 2003 when he won the juniors’ singles title. Making his debut in the men’s tournament two years later, he reached the third round after knocking out Chile’s Nicolas Massu, the then world No. 23, in the first.
RG Champions: Stan Wawrinka
A Roland-Garros men’s singles champion in 2015 and a runner-up two years later, the Swiss player enjoys a special relationship with the tournament and its fans.
An inexorable rise
Following consecutive fourth-round defeats to fellow countryman Roger Federer in 2010 and 2011, Wawrinka lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the same stage in 2012. He finally made the breakthrough 12 months later, coming from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet in an epic encounter and reach the quarter-finals for the first time. “I’ve played a lot of games in Paris when the atmosphere’s been great and though the fans were pretty much behind Richard on that occasions, I loved it,” recalled Stan.
Though his run that year was promptly halted by Rafael Nadal, the Swiss could sense he was making rapid progress on a surface he had grown up on. “When I was young I played on clay virtually the whole year round and it was pretty natural for me to slip and slide around,” he said in 2014.
The highlight of a glittering career
Having claimed his first Grand Slam title at the 2014 Australian Open in Melbourne, “Stan the Man” added the Roland-Garros crown a year later, beating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final to cement his place among the greats of the day.
It was a performance he has described as the best of his career. “It was the best tennis I’ve ever played by a mile, at least over the course of a whole match,” Wawrinka recently told his friend Benoit Paire in one of their now-famous “StanPairo” sessions on Instagram. “There was one moment, at the start of the third set I think, when I felt totally in the zone. I hit forehand winners down the line and backhand winners down the line. It just happened.”
Known for his huge work rate, Stan is also blessed with nerves of steel, and it is this mental toughness that helped him finally get his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires: “I was serving for the match and I could feel the stress. What helped me get the job done was that I convinced myself that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I lost that game. I’d still be ahead even if I lost serve. That helped me stay calm.” And stay calm he did, before hitting one last backhand winner down the line and throwing his racquet into the air in triumph.
In the post-match press conference he surprised everyone by displaying his famous checked shorts alongside the Coupe des Mousquetaires. A source of much amusement, they inspired his kit manufacturer to create a limited-edition keyring with the same design. “I love them and apparently I’m the only one who does,” he said with a smile. “I know a lot of people are talking about these shorts but they’ve won Roland-Garros. It’s so funny.”
A favourite with the fans
A semi-finalist in 2016 and a runner-up to Nadal a year later, “Stanimal” has always enjoyed a special relationship with the Roland-Garros crowd, who were right behind him once more in the fourth round in 2019, when he battled his way to victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in a marathon tie lasting five hours and nine minutes. “I just soaked up the atmosphere and all the emotions you can go through in a match as long as that, with so many people watching, so many people making so much noise. Those are the emotions you can only experience in our sport and I’m happy to still be part of it.”