Swiss newspapers rejoiced at the success of Stanislas “Stan” Wawrinka at the French Open on Sunday, saying that he has now finally managed to step out of the shadows of his more illustrious compatriot Roger Federer to become the “Swiss who wins”.
“Winner of two Grand Slams, Stan was able to accomplish one of the most difficult things in sport: prove himself,” wrote Le Temps on Monday. “As prestigious as the Australian Open is, it doesn’t have the same impact as ‘Roland Garros winner’ on a player’s business card,” the editorial notes, referring to Wawrinka’s 2014 Grand Slam win in Melbourne.
The paper said Wawrinka could now count himself among the big names like Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Federer, all of whom have won the French Open.
The Neue Luzerner Zeitung recalled that his long journey to victory began at the French Open 12 years ago when he won the junior title.
The Tages-Anzeiger remarked that Wawrinka finally managed to shed the albatross of “one-Slam wonder” that has plagued talented players like Pat Cash, Andy Roddick, Goran Ivanisevic and Yannick Noah who had not gone on to fulfil their promise after winning their first major title.
No mean feat with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nadal and Federer in the fray to be crowned “King of clay” in 2015.
“Becoming a multiple Grand Slam winner in the year of the ‘Big Four’ seemed impossible but he did it,” acknowledged the Tribune de Genève. The paper pointed out that the canton Vaud player is now actually part of the cast of "mutants" Wawrinka said had stamped their authority on the Paris tournament.
Despite his Australian Open win, Wawrinka has been perceived more as a grafter who seldom reaped what he sowed. His checkered shorts often provoked more comments than his game.
Stan’s exploits at this year’s tournament, where he dismantled Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer and Djokovic to succeed, cast him in a new light.
“The player from French-speaking Switzerland has transformed himself from a someone who puts up a good fight and yet loses to someone who raises his game in big tournaments and at crucial points,” wrote the Tages-Anzeiger.
Returning to winning ways has also resulted in a change in attitude towards the Swiss number two. The Neue Luzerner Zeitung wrote that the Swiss fans no longer view Stan as a harmless player who is always a little behind Federer but as his peer and equal.
“From the ‘Swiss who loses’ he has transformed into to the ‘Swiss who wins’ and for whom the whole country screams at the top of their lungs…,” said the Tribune de Genève. The paper added that, “Melbourne was not a fluke but the beginning of a formidable ascent” for Wawrinka.
He was also praised his lack of pretensions to grandeur and for his formidable work ethic.
“Although he never claimed to be one of the greats he always worked towards becoming one of them,” said Le Temps.
The Aargauer Zeitung and several other German-speaking dailies also lauded him as "one of the hardest workers on the circuit”. They praised him for relentlessly focusing on “bringing all the components of his game to the highest level: technical, tactical, physical and mental”.
Wawrinka was also cited as a role model for junior players who could learn from his “never-say-die” attitude.
“Persistent and obstinate, he demonstrated that an appetite for hard work and a desire to learn are ‘talents’ that are as important as a fine wrist and physical strength,” wrote Le Temps. The paper also added that he is living proof that “hitting the ball against a barn door day and night can take you to the summit of tennis”.
The tournament was a showcase of domestic talent with team Switzerland represented by Wawrinka, Federer and 25-year-old Timea Bacsinszky, who surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals. However, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung warned that this “density of Swiss talent contrasted against the acute lack of depth at the youth level in the country”. The paper added that “it is the efforts of individuals that make Swiss tennis shine bright”.
Winterthour’s Der Landbote daily agreed that it was “presumptuous to think of Switzerland as the bastion of tennis” but said that recent success of Swiss players has meant that several strong tennis nations now look at the “little Swiss” with envy.