This is a little tale of Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka, from the Summer of ’12. Do not fret over the title, “Stan the Man” fans, for despite a few trials and tribulations, this story has plenty of pretty pictures (click for BIG versions!) and a happy ending.
Stan is currently #17 in the world, with three career titles and a career high ranking of #9. At Roger Federer’s first practice session at the Cincinnati Open, however, Stan may as well have been The Invisible Man. Sure, the Grand-Slam-maestro is a big draw, but J.D. and I expected that at least some of the tennis fans who shell out the big bucks to visit a tournament would have a passing interest in the Top 20.
At first it didn’t seem so. Six feet away from a damn fine tennis player and all eyes are elsewhere.
You can always tell when the crowd has no clue who someone is–they all stare at you when you start taking pictures, wondering why your camera is aimed at “the other guy.” I recommend to you right now, newbie tennis fans–always take pictures of that dude across the net. Three months from now when you actually realize who he is, you’re gonna be thrilled that you’ve got all these pics from when he was cranking forehands right in front of you.
Stan and Roger do spend a lot of time in each other’s company, often practicing together and even, you know, winning doubles gold together in 2008. Ringing any bells, people? No? Really? You’re a Fed fan and don’t remember this?:
Never mind. We’ll just sit here and watch Stan practice, working up a sweat and doing his damnedest to make Fed miss.
Sometimes he succeeded. Throughout the vigorous workout, an older gentleman behind us was giving an extensive Federer Tennis lesson to the children assembled around him. He lavished praise on Fed’s form, technique, how he set up shots, how he added spin, and how he was just generally Awesome. Of course the impromptu lesson acknowledged that the Swiss Maestro wasn’t playing against a backboard. He had some very nice rallies, in fact, with “the other fella.”
That other fella drew ire from young Fed fans, however, as he and Sev double-teamed Rog for some intensive practice. Their hysteria over the unfairness of it all cooled later when Rog returned the favor by teaming up with Sev against Stan. And lo and behold, a young man in the crowd finally spoke Stan’s name aloud. He mispronounced it, but hey, he enlightened those around him, so let’s not quibble over small details.
Especially since peeps on our side of the court finally got excited that the dude right in front of them was actually Somebody. Somebody with quite a nice one-handed backhand, in fact.
Someone who, on closer inspection, had an adorable warpaint effect going on with his sunscreen.
But let’s get back to that backhand. One of the joys of Stan’s game is that his one-hander is actually quite lethal, as he’s able to put a hell of a lot of power into it for winners. Even Fed agreed in a recent interview that Stan has the better backhand.
Love it the most when he’s airborne…
We’re not sure what happened here…
The forehand is not too shabby either. In Cincinnati Stan was in top form, playing aggressively and working every inch of the court to take out Matthieu, Nishikori, Raonic, and Ferrer. Seriously, the dude was on fire. And with each match the Stan love grew, as his current fans turned up in packs to cheer him on, and he earned new ones with his exciting level of play–particularly the gutsy fight in his 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 win over Milos.
and I must confess…
…your ass. Like with Rafa, one can not do a complete Stan photo post without addressing his curves. J.D. is covering his eyes and ears and singing “La la la” right now, so I can show off these two as well…
This match had the crowd going crazy. Stan pushed Federer to a first set tiebreaker, and the tennis was amazing. You could see the two of them totally poking at each other, running each other around the court, digging out those weaknesses that longtime friends can always find in each other. It’s rare to see someone sprinting in a direction while Fed’s barely into his service motion…and choosing correctly.
After yet another of Stan’s searing winners blew his hair back, you could see Fed rolling his shoulders back with an “It’s so on,” look across the court. He pushed back hard, and it was exhilarating watching the guys battle it out on each and every point, glorious one-handers slicing and spinning the ball back and forth across the net. The majority of the crowd was cheering both players on, and we were sorry that we couldn’t get three sets of this incredible play. Fed got that little edge over Stan in the TB and took the match in two, 7-6(4), 6-3.
From behind us, a girl leaned forward in her seat for a better look. “I don’t think Federer is good-looking,” she announced to her family and friends. Then, with obvious interest in her voice, she asked, “Who’s the other guy?”
PHOTOS: Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer at Cincinnati Masters, c2012 Valerie David of TennisInsideOut.com.