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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, July 24, 2020

Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer

Stan Wawrinka on best advice his "big brother" Roger Federer provided and why he embraces the differences between himself and the Big 3.

Photo credit: Davis Cup Facebook

Long-time buddies Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer trade friendly fire when they meet on court.

Reflecting on his first meeting with Federer, Wawrinka recalls feeling the fear factor before striking a shot.

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"[I remember it] very well," Wawrinka told L'illustré of his first-ever hit with Federer. "It was on a clay court in Biel, at Swiss Tennis. I was 16 and I was there as a sparring partner.

"I remember that I had put a lot of pressure on myself, I was paralyzed at the idea of ​​missing my shots. I had given everything, I was red after five minutes on the [court.]"

In a wide-ranging interview with the magazine L'illustré, Wawrinka details the lessons learned from his tennis "big brother" Federer and the clear difference between the champions who stamped Swiss tennis with milestone moments. 

All three of Wawrinka's Grand Slam final victories have come against iconic champions. Wawrinka owns a 3-0 record vs. world No. 1 players in major finals, stunning Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final to capture his first Grand Slam crown then toppling Novak Djokovic in both the 2015 Roland Garros title, firing 60 winners in the process, and the 2016 US Open final. 

The 35-year-old Swiss says training with Federer and the Big 3 not only helped sharpen his game—it provided valuable experience and insight into how these iconic champions work on their craft.

"When I arrived on the tour [Federer] was already world number one and had won several Grand Slams," Wawrinka said. "Few young players have had the chance to train with a champion of this level. I have always liked to learn from others and I often say that I owe much of my Grand Slam titles to the Big Three.

"I am certainly the player to have trained the most with them. I watched them, I watched a lot of their games. At the start of my career, I was able to count on Rodg's advice before facing the best. He was like a big brother on the circuit."

Wawrinka and Federer joined forces to capture the Olympic gold medal in doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and reunited leading Switzerland to the 2014 Davis Cup championship.

In the early days of their friendship, the young Stan sometimes called world No. 1 Roger for tactical talks. Federer said Wawrinka absorbed advice and acted on it. 

 “I remember giving Stan a lot of advice on how he should play certain guys,” Federer recalled during the 2017 Australian Open. “What I like with Stan is if I would tell him something, I felt like he was able to do it. That showed me that he's a great player, that he's got a mind of somebody who understands what I'm trying to explain him.

“Some players, you tell them something, they've just got no clue what to do, what it means. Stan had that early on, so I think he was a great learner.”

Asked the best advice he's received from his "big brother", Wawrinka says Federer showed him the value of making the most of moments every day. 

"The importance of living in the present moment [is the best advice]," Wawrinka said. "For twenty years, he has been in demand daily by the press, fans, trips, tournaments, training.

"His days are ultra-busy and yet he remains incredibly calm. Even when he has to do something that kicks him less, he does it thoroughly, better than everyone else. Over the years, I try to get closer to that too."

The pair have played and partied together and are typecast as two completely contrasting stylists. The fluid Federer is the all-court graceful glider, who makes the game look effortless, while Wawrinka is the muscular grinder willing to batter his way through rallies.

The three-time Grand Slam champion says he embraces the clear contrast as a badge of honor. Stan the Man asserts his work ethic makes him more relatable to regular recreational players than ultra-gifted "aliens" like the Big 3.  

"On the contrary, I assume it completely and I am proud of it," Wawrinka told the magazine. "I think that's what makes me popular.

"After my first Grand Slam victory, people said to themselves: “Hey, it's a guy like us who succeeded. This means we can all do it! ” Whereas Rodg, Rafa and Novak are aliens who have always been above everyone else. I got there much later."

Tennis Express

Looking back on his tennis journey, the 35-year-old Wawrinka, who switched from a two-handed backhand to a one-hander at age 11, says he's effectively exceeded his own expectations.

"Young, I never imagined I could accomplish 10 percent of it all," Wawrinka said. "When I won Roland-Garros junior in 2003, I was just hoping to make it into the top 100 and make a living from tennis. As a child, I never thought I would one day have the level to win a Grand Slam tournament."


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