Wawrinka Takes Aim At Clay Season
Stan Wawrinka’s 2015 season, in which the Swiss went a career-best 55-18 with four titles, is a tough act to follow. But, coming into the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters with a 15-4 record and two titles in 2016, the No. 4 player in the Emirates ATP Rankings is well on his way to duplicating the feat.
“Even if I have a lot of points to defend in this part of the season, the pressure is on all year long,” acknowledged Wawrinka, who retained his Chennai title in the first week of the year before capturing the Dubai crown over Marcos Baghdatis. “My goal is to qualify for the [Barclays ATP World Tour Finals], so I have to win on a weekly basis.”
The clay-court ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events could prove critical for Wawrinka. The 2014 Monte-Carlo champion (d. Federer) is 17-7 at the event, but is only defending a third-round appearance (l. to Dimitrov last year). Consequently, he stands to make up significant ground on the Novak Djokovic-Andy Murray-Roger Federer triumvirate with a strong showing this week.
“Of course I am happy every year to return to clay. It’s a surface that I love. I’m happy with my progress in training so far,” Wawrinka said. “Monte Carlo is a very enjoyable tournament for us, the players. The setting is magnificent. The conditions are ideal. It’s a Masters 1000, so I have to be ready from the start and hope to have good results.”
Last year, Wawrinka ended this clay-court swing with a bang, shocking the tennis world by denying Djokovic’s bid for a calendar Grand Slam in the Roland Garros final. But, for the 31 year old, the Serb is still the gold standard on the ATP World Tour.
“It’s simply impressive, what he’s accomplished. He’s at a level well above everyone else, but that’s nothing new. He’s been dominating for a couple of years.
“If you look at his results, he’s well ahead of the field. Like Roger [Federer] or Rafa [Nadal] had been at other points. He’s winning everything right now.”
Or not quite everything, if Wawrinka has his way once again.
Wawrinka has a first-round bye and will open against Philipp Kohlschreiber or Borna Coric.