IMAGE: Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka in action. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Three-time Grand Slam champion Stanislas Wawrinka still has the hunger to be consistently competitive against top players and wants to make a final push for success before the end of his career, his coach Daniel Vallverdu has told Reuters.
Wawrinka’s last ATP title came in 2017 before the former world number three underwent knee surgery. The injury continued to trouble him through 2018 during which his ranking fell to 263.
The 35-year-old Swiss has since been on a rise, making two finals in 2019, and continued the good work at the start of 2020 by reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals.
The shutdown due to COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty in the calendar proved “challenging” but Wawrinka managed to make a strong end to the year by reaching the quarter-finals in St Petersburg and the ATP Masters in Paris.
“Once the tour had a little bit more of a structure and we knew that tournaments were going to happen he found his motivation again and we were able to practise with a goal and with objectives in front of us,” Vallverdu said in an interview.
“The last few events of the year were very encouraging. He’s now ready to go through this training block in December, and hopefully have a full season next year.”
Vallverdu said Wawrinka has been clear in his message to his team about his goals for 2021.
“The hunger is definitely there and he wants to make a last push now at the end of his career,” Vallverdu said by phone from Monaco. “The goals are not just to win tournaments, but to feel like he’s competitive at a high level.
“It would be unrealistic to say that the goals are to win a Grand Slam. Whether it can happen or not? Of course it can.
“But with his potential and experience he feels if he is competitive against the guys that are at the top, he’s always going to have a chance to achieve big results.”
Vallverdu, 34, started working with the Swiss in the middle of last year and said Wawrinka was aware he would need to put in more work than usual in the face of stiff competition in the men’s game.
Outside the usual challenge from the Big Three of Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Vallverdu feels a host of younger players have come of age in the last two years.
Dominic Thiem’s U.S. Open triumph in 2020 was the first Grand Slam triumph outside the triumvirate since Wawrinka won in New York in 2016.
Vallverdu, who has coached some of the biggest names on the ATP Tour including Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, said the future of men’s tennis is in good hands.
“It’s nice to see that there is not only one or two guys that maybe will take over tennis in a few years but there is more than a handful or even more than 10 guys that have the possibility and level to become champions,” he said.
“Few of them play very differently to one another and there is good variety coming in the next few years.”