Preview: ATP No. 4 Stan Wawrinka
January 17, 2016, 12:15 pm    

In the last two years, Wawrinka has developed a reputation for unpredictability. Just when he looks like he’s heading into a prolonged slump, he comes back with guns blazing and wins a big tournament. Last season it happened at the French Open, where he handed Novak Djokovic his lone loss at the majors in 2015. Then, just when Wawrinka looks unbeatable, he slumps again. He ended his Grand Slam season with a decidedly one-sided loss to Roger Federer at the US Open.
Look closer, though, and you’ll see that Wawrinka has begun to make himself a model of consistency at the majors. In 2015, he was the only player other than Djokovic to reach the quarterfinals or better at all four Slams. Throw in the fact that Wawrinka won four titles last year, the same number that he won over the first 11 years of his career combined, and it’s obvious that he’s still improving at age 30. While Wawrinka’s countryman Federer is trying to find out how long a champion can last into his 30s, Wawrinka will try to find out how much better a late-blooming player can get at a similar age.

As far as Wawrinka’s talent goes, there’s still room to grow. No one is as strong from the baseline, especially on the backhand wing. But will age bring its own limits to what Wawrinka can accomplish? For now, his late-career surge seems destined to continue at least one more season.

Best Case Scenario
In beating Federer and Djokovic at last year’s French Open, Wawrinka showed us again what he can do when he’s at his best. He has also become more consistent over the last year. The combination could lead to another major title, or more, in 2016.

Worst Case Scenario
Wawrinka is racing against Father Time to fulfill his potential. As his nickname suggests, the Stanimal plays a highly physical brand of tennis; any decline in his physical ability could cost him dearly.

Bottom Line
Wawrinka will be 31, but his career arc is still swinging upward. He’ll have his bad days, but he’ll also make more deep Slam runs.



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