He sent out a Twitter picture of himself cradling the Sir Norman Brookes Trophy accompanying the message “No words” followed by a ton of exclamation marks. The day after the triumph that changed everything in Stanislas Wawrinka’s life, he still had difficulty recognising himself as a ‘real’ champion.
His manager, Lawrence Frankopan, had received 600 emails and more than 300 text messages since Wawrinka’s victory over Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open, and you could multiply those numbers for the player. At 4am on Tuesday in Melbourne, Frankopan insisted his client silenced his mobile phone and tried to get some sleep.
But he couldn’t switch off. One of the calls he fielded was from Roger Federer. “He was going crazy for me,” Wawrinka said — and why wouldn’t he be?
The Swiss writers who have covered Wawrinka’s exploits in the past ten years have done so largely as devotion to duty, rather than in the belief he might one day give them a story every bit as magical as the many they have penned about Federer’s dominance over the game. But here he was again before them, back at Melbourne Park, a little bleary-eyed, this most modest of men, attempting to make sense of his achievement.
For Federer, who had lost to Nadal in straight sets in the semi-finals, it was reasonable to expect that the Spaniard would go on to close the Grand Slam title gap between them to three.
After all, Wawrinka had not won a set from him in 12 past matches. Instead, thanks to bravura Wawrinka, it remains at four and the order has been shaken dramatically. Rather than theorising on how many more majors Federer might win, we need to recognise that Wawrinka has a game that is friendly with every surface.
“I always practise hard, trying to play better, trying to improve my game, trying to find solutions,” the new world No. 3 said. “Why this year? It’s just my time. My career is like that. I’m 28, I’m more mature. I understand better why I win and why I lose.
“For sure, last year everything came with self confidence. Now I know that I can beat everybody at this stage of a Grand Slam, doesn’t matter if it’s a final, semi-final, quarter final. That has changed everything. When you have that confidence in yourself, you can win a Grand Slam.
“Seriously, last year I realised that I was close to making a big result and I did, one semi-final [at the US Open where he lost to Novak Djokovic in five sets]. But even if I had won that, I had to play Rafa in the final.
“For me, it’s too much, it was just not my level, just not my goal. But I have the good mentality to always try to improve. I always go on court trying to win and trying to enjoy. I showed from the beginning of this year that I am playing my best tennis. And when I am playing my best tennis I can beat all the players.
“Everything that’s happening is quite crazy. For sure when you’re No. 3 and you win a Slam, journalists expect you to say, ‘I want to be No 1’. But I feel it’s so far from me, so far from my level, that’s why it’s not my goal, that’s why I have to take time for myself alone with my family and my team to see exactly how I’m going to deal with that for the rest of the year and what I want to do more.
“After the Davis Cup [he is bound for Novi Sad in Serbia this weekend to compete for Switzerland in a world group first round tie without Federer in the team] there’s a big chance that I will take some time just to realise what’s happened.”
The journey from the men’s locker room to the stadium here is, like Wimbledon, adorned with pictures of the champions of the past.
“The first thing I will do is I will come back is take a picture of myself, that’s for sure, it’s big, when I see all those champions, they’re the real champions, and to be there is just something crazy.” Wawrinka said, every bit as real a champion as all the rest.